( or How to Not Lose Your Mind in the New Year )
We live in a productivity-obsessed world, and I’m a child of it: I find myself swooning over crossed-off, to-do lists, measurable goals, and definitive timelines (heck, my name even means industrious!). I also desperately love my job – it’s a place where I get to marry my achievement obsession with doing something I really believe in: helping children heal from abuse.
There’s also a lot of pressure that comes with worrying about how 20 centers plus my organization are doing, how to meet budget, and how to deal with an ever-increasing demand for services. And I’ve faced moments of real crisis in my job – moments that presented the possibility of statewide layoffs, moments where children’s safety was seriously legitimized – so, as you can imagine, it can be hard not to let my work consume my life.
But here’s the reality: an exhausted, frazzled, overworked version of me doesn’t make things better. In fact, it makes things worse for me, my family, and for the organization.
After a particularly challenging year of work stress coupled with having two young children at home, I read this blog post, set out a resolution, and made this announcement to the Facebook world:
Will and I like you folks, and we want more of you in our lives. So, following the example of a family in Philly, here is our 2015 resolution:
Every Friday night at 7, we are cooking up a pot of spaghetti and meatballs and sitting down at the dining room table as a family — along with anyone else who would like to join us. Friends, colleagues, neighbors, Facebook friends who would like to hang out in real life, you are welcome at our table.
We simply ask you let us know if you’re coming by Thursday so we know how much to make, and we’re capping the number of adults at 10 so we can really sit around the table. Bring something to share, or don’t if it stresses you out. Wine is always welcome. Dietary restrictions will be met.
It’s a casual, kid-friendly affair. Our house may not be clean. It could be your first stop before a night on the town, or you may end up sitting around a fire until the wee hours of the morning. Either way, we want you there. You’re invited. Every Friday. Let us know.
And it has been beautiful. We’ve met people we wouldn’t have. We’ve created space for intentional community. We’ve eaten loads of pasta. But, most importantly, we’ve reminded ourselves in a steady, non-stressful way, that work is not our lives. And when work starts becoming our lives, we have our friends and community to pull us back.
Y’all, 2016 was a tough year for many of us. And here we find ourselves in the season of resolutions. I hope you resolve to do one regular, scheduled thing each week – something that makes you leave work at 5 p.m., tend to your own health, and reminds you to lean in to what makes you happy.
Oh, and by the way, you’re invited over on Friday night.
Emily Chittenden-Laird is the Executive Director of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network, the state’s alliance of child advocacy centers. Emily provides leadership in every aspect of the CAC movement in the state — from training to fund development to advocating for public policy. At home, Emily loves hanging out with her husband and two boys, reading good fiction and poetry, and conquering her now two-years-old resolution of hiking every trail in Kanawha State Forest.
Like party favors, but for your brain. Enjoy these weekly goodies including viral videos, interesting articles, curated playlists, and more!
- LISTEN: Emily built this playlist on a million-hour drive to Missouri
** Tracks #1 & #2 are NSFW and not intended for little ears
- READ: Poems on Mindfulness
- PODCAST: ‘On Being with Krista Tippett’
- WATCH: An oldie, but goodie Jose Gonzales music video