Dear 2011,

You taught me some intense lessons! Many I’m still learning over and over again, especially those about letting go of expectations and being gentle with myself. I thank you for all you taught me and the deep love, fear, joy, pain, and growth that was 2011.

1. Being pregnant and giving birth again reminded me that I can work as hard as I possibly can; read, study, and prepare; plan all I want; and still I really don’t have any control. I dedicated months preparing for a natural childbirth experience that went out the window when I found myself 2 weeks overdue and staring in the face of (another) induction. The fact that Melaina’s birth was nearly identical to Megan’s felt so unfair to me and I struggled with sadness and anger about it for many months. Not to mention guilt. Huge, heavy guilt weighing me down. When Melaina was a week old I had a dream that my midwife told me I really should put her back in and birth her the right way. I also found myself angry at my body. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t just go into labor naturally? Thankfully I’ve come to terms with it now and allowed myself to grieve for the natural birth I so desperately wanted. I’m grateful to my body for creating, carrying, and birthing two amazing babies. I accept that they came into this world in the manner that they needed to. Talking about it really helped me (thank you to everyone who repeatedly listened to me go on about this). So did reading this post.

2. Being a mom to a newborn again taught me some powerful lessons. Namely, how to ask for and graciously receive help. Sometimes I just want to do everything by myself! Um, okay, most of the time! These last seven months have really forced me out of my comfort zone when it comes to asking for what I need. It gets a little easier each time. If you struggle with this too please know that it is a beautiful gift to the people who love you to allow them to take care of you just as you take care of them.

3. I experienced a painful reminder that trusting my intuition is the most important parenting strategy. Now that I think about it this applies to life in general.

4. I struggled with basing my self-worth on something other than “getting stuff done.” I’d actually like to remove the phrase Getting Stuff Done from my vocabulary. I want back all the time and energy I’ve spent worrying about Getting Stuff Done. There is more to life than Getting Stuff Done. If you hear me say, “I can’t ever get anything done,” please calmly remind me that raising children is some of the most important stuff one can do in a day.

5. Time is precious. Attention is the greatest gift you can give someone. Set down your phone and look people in the eye when you’re having a conversation. Listen intently. Let yourself be where you are. Do what you have to do to calm your monkey mind and enjoy the moment.

6. Saying no is necessary and liberating. I said no to non-ideal work. I let go of my fear and scarcity mindset and trusted that there would be enough if I followed my heart. It’s working out beautifully for me.

7. Focusing on my priorities is freeing and feels fabulous. I can’t remember where I read this but someone said, “If it’s not a HELL YEAH then it’s a hell no!” This really stuck in my mind and I’ve used it as a guide when making decisions about how to spend my time and energy.

8. Trying to be perfectly on top of all the minute details of life is exhausting (and so not worth it). 2011 was the year I decided it was okay to take one or even two days to return phone calls and emails. It may sound super simple but this made a huge difference in my stress level and I highly recommend it.

9. Life is happening right now! Worrying about the future or rehashing the past robs us of enjoying our lives.

10. To feel healthy and balanced I need time to myself every day. This doesn’t mean something is wrong with me. It’s just what is true for me.

11. Self-care is not selfish! This is not a new lesson. It’s actually something I say to women I work with all the time but this past year I struggled with some guilt over taking time out for me. And feeling bad during your self-care time kind of defeats the purpose! So for 2012 I’m all about releasing guilt and being easy on myself. (More on that in my word of the year post coming soon.)