MamaBlogger365 – Sticking to the Issues by *Dr Mama* Amber Kinser

Last January, inspired by the Jewish Near Year tradition, or more specifically that of Yom Kippur’s solemn day of atonement that follows the new year, I wrote several posts, beginning with a piece on food, and followed by pieces on work and time, in which I plotted out what I saw to be my “wrongs” of the year previous. My goal, of course, was to then right them in 2011.

I had thought this post was going to be about how I was rather unsuccessful; I think these will always be core points of struggle for me. But after writing out the post, I’ve had to come up here to its beginning to say that I’ve not done a bad job of working on some of my “issues” overall, though I do have some work to do on them in 2012. I feel uplifted, and sort of caught by surprise, by the realization that I did, in fact, make progress last year. I think I’ll turn my focus toward celebrating that and away from critiquing myself for the areas where I’ve seen less success. So hooray for that (my friend Lori Ann tells me she appreciates my participation in bringing ‘hooray’ back.)

My efforts to make changes in my overinvestment in work have resulted over the past year largely in redirecting where I put my work-related energy, so that it gets funneled into the parts that feed me—like teaching and writing—rather than the parts that bore and drain me—like administrative components. The job is heavily administrative in its own right though, so this is tough goal to meet.

Plus, I’ve not really addressed the issue of being overinvested in work given that I’ve only modified which parts of work get my focus. I’ve not focused on it less. I am no less “invested in work” this year than I was last year. Now, I do think that making conscious choices about which parts I’m going to care a lot about on one hand and which parts I’m going to do only as well as is absolutely necessary on the other is an important development. I find I am less anxious about the administrative parts and I am teaching/writing in ways that feed me. I’m less buffeted about emotionally by it all. So I guess I’m differently invested in work. That’s probably something, yeah?

I think I’ve made a good bit of progress on food, specifically on being overinvested in meal preparations and family members’ responses to them. One way I’ve made shifts is to cook fewer meals proper. I have a very difficult time thinking of simplicity in terms of meals. I don’t mean that my meals are elaborate; they are not. I do mean that having a leftover and salad, or a sandwich, or a couple of vegetables, feels so on the fly to me. And this is strange because the person from whom I learned most of what I know about cooking and family meals is my mother, who fed us this way at least every third night, when my father the firefighter was at the fire department for a 24 hour shift. I don’t give myself much credit for just “making something to eat” if that something isn’t served up from some big pot or pan. Weird.

Anyway, I do cook a little less and I am navigating my daughter’s shifting diets, as she figures out who she is and what culinary and body care directions she wants to head. She is vegetarian now (last year mostly so, plus some chicken) and she is leaning toward being vegan, I think. I’ve made some changes in what I cook and tried to cook more vegetarian when she’s around and meaty stuff when she isn’t. When we had meat, like Christmas ham, I tried to ensure veggie options and afterward made a vegetarian pea soup alongside the one with ham. I am much more comfortable with her declining my cooking so I guess I’ve fairly effectively detached my maternal “worth” from how many spoonfuls she takes of my preparations.

I’ve also worked on redirecting my food energy, as I did my work energy, funneling it into what “feeds” me. I did a great deal of cooking over the holidays primarily motivated by the fact that I damn well felt like it. I’ve tapered off since, because I damn well felt like it, but I do have corned beef and cabbage in the crockpot right now so I’m pretty stoked knowing we’ll come home to that tonight.

I seem to be making some progress on the third issue I atoned for last year: Time. It’s hard to differentiate this issue from the work issue, of course. What I struggle with most as I noted last January, is breaking away. I still pine after images of lakes I want to sit by and woods I want to walk in; I have a terrific photo that functions as the background/wallpaper for my computer screen at home that is a red clay road through a lush wood, much like the one featured in this post. “I need to be walking down that road,” I think to myself when I first sit down in my home office, “not seeing it in 2-D on my computer screen.” But I don’t feel so much like crying for the longing of it. So perhaps that’s a sign that I’m managing to unwind more.

I did spend much of my spring and summer under the gazebo in my back yard—working often enough, mind you, but otherwise looking at cookbooks and magazines and managing my rental property. And I did spend some time at the beach in the summer, and I did take myself on an 8-day writing retreat in early fall, which I blogged about beginning here. So as I write I can see that I’ve made some improvements on which I can build this year. I still haven’t figured out how to break away in a more routine way—regular walks, fun on the weekends, going out for a meal or coffee with friends. That last one is something I aim to take up in serious way this year. Anybody up for lunch?

BIO: Dr. Mama (Amber Kinser) is a writer, feminist mother, professor, and speaker who lives in Tennessee. Check her out on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @DrMamaWit, and see her webpage. Kinser writes for the MamaBlogger365 series each Thursday at the Museum Of Motherhood, Mamapalooza and Mamazina Magazine.

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