Tag Archives: struggle

Shifting My Perspective

Property of Kristin Giuliani

September was an exhausting month. It was enlightening and beautiful. It was tedious and draining. I was challenged and stretched and asked to step out of my comfort zone. And I somehow feel simultaneously refreshed and depleted. I have a sense that I just closed a chapter in my life and am stepping into a new one. Although it’s early, I think this new chapter will be defined by unique perspectives – shifting out of autopilot and being willing to look at everything that defines me in a completely different way. I am redefining my work, how I use my skills, and how I spend my time. I can feel it. Change is coming.

 Property of Kristin Giuliani

I am someone who thrives on change – external change. I like to be a participant in changing locations, changing weather, changing activities, changing routines.

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However, I am realizing that it’s a lot less fun when I have to initiate the change by changing something internal first. And the clear message of September is that I can start a new, exciting chapter in my life, BUT, not by first changing my circumstances. I have to change how I see my circumstances first, and look at the same old mundane things in a new way.

Property of Kristin Giuliani
That is infinitely less exciting and infinitely more challenging for me.  And even though that is the entire point of this blog, internal change in the absence of external change is hard, and I’m lazy. And unlike my sister, I still haven’t quite mastered the art of being disciplined.

Property of Kristin Giuliani
After spilling out some deep, soul-searching posts this past month, I feel myself at a bit of a loss this week.

Property of Kristin Giuliani
I am an introspective, internal-processing introvert, and much like I reach my saturation point with people, I also arrive at a point where my external words have run out. I’m sure as this new chapter inches forward, the words will come. But for now, they are hibernating.


So instead, as I step into October, I thought I could share the essence of what I feel I need to be doing through images.


You know, trying to see dishes, laundry, and onion chopping (and the tears they inevitably produce) as art rather than drudgery.

Maybe using my camera to look at my life from a different perspective will help me begin the internal shift.

Then maybe I can see the art hiding in the process of internal change, too.

And embrace it as the exciting journey toward the external change I crave.

Property of Kristin Giuliani

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I Am Lazy

When I was in 6th grade, I was asked to play on an all-star basketball team in my hometown.

Okay, is everyone done laughing?

Granted, it’s a small town, so it’s not like I was selected from among thousands of other talented youth. But, ALL the other girls were good. Some even went on to play in college. And the coach’s son was famous for being one of the few South Dakotans able to slam dunk. So it was a pretty big deal.

We won the 6th grade interstate tourney that year.

Property of Kristin GiulianiYes, I still have the trophy, mostly because it was the only sports trophy I ever won. But partly because I’m still not sure why I was selected for the team. Sure, I was fast and a very aggressive defensive player, but I could NOT make a basket. I think I made around 3% of my shots. I certainly couldn’t hit a 3 pointer (AIR BALL!). My best bet was a layup, although I got called for traveling almost every time. And dribbling? Let’s just say I looked a lot like Stanley from The Office.

I did not play basketball after that year. You see, I tried to practice shooting and dribbling. But it was hard. I was not naturally good at those things. So I just stopped practicing. By the end of the season, I barely played and when I did, no one passed me the ball anymore. I could see the writing on the wall. So I quit.

 Fast forward 23 years. This August, I had finally figured out some health issues, and was feeling awesome for the first time in years. On a whim, I signed up for a 10K called the Chocoholic Frolic. Now, I should mention that I had not run in…hmmm…5 years? Oh, and I am not a runner. Not only am I not a runner, but I hate running. I keep trying to like running because it’s free and I can do it with my children in tow. But I have never been able to run much more than 2 miles. Slowly. Hating every second of it. Running was always hard, I was always slow, and I always felt like I was going to puke. So I would quit. Because I am just not a runner.

So, obviously, the next logical step for me was to sign up for a 10K. Thank you, ADHD. Sigh.

But there I was. I had already paid my $60 entrance fee. I had already told all my friends (who looked at me in awkward silence with blank stares, waiting for me to chuckle and say, “just kidding!”). So I had to figure out how to run 6.2 miles in 3 months.

Pride is apparently a powerful motivator. Since I do not like to fail, I sucked it up and started running. Guess what I realized? It’s not that my genetic makeup makes it impossible for me to be a runner. I’m just lazy.

Don’t get me wrong. I do quality work and do work hard. But, I have noticed a pattern. If something doesn’t come easy to me, and it is not required for a job or absolutely essential at that moment, then I will quit. Even if it’s the best way, or would be fun, or will save time, work and strife down the road. Looking back, I’m a little embarrassed to see that I have spent my life meticulously surrounding myself only with activities that play to my natural talents so that I don’t have to do things I am not good at and don’t like.

I certainly believe it is necessary and responsible to discover, use and share your natural gifts and talents. And I certainly think that it is essential to know when to say no and quit things that drain and distract. However, I am talking about an underdeveloped sense of discipline – the ability to work hard and see something through to the end, even if it is not essential. Because it is best. Because it is right. Because it sets a good example. Because in it there is beauty, importance, eternal value and joy. Because eventually, something challenging will  be essential and there will be no established pattern of discipline.

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I am now faced with the reality that most of what I have to do each day are things for which I have no natural talent (cooking, cleaning and organizing), and consequently have never bothered to learn. So, I do the bare minimum to get by. I have blamed it on just being so busy for years. But if I’m really honest with myself, I know it’s because I just don’t want to work at it. I become immobilized by how naturally inept I am at all of them. I don’t know where to start. There are so many and they are never done and I get so discouraged. At those moments, I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of all things common. It’s hard not to sigh enviously at Laura attending her glamorous Opera Ball.

While picking away burrs on my recent retreat, I did a lot of soul searching about this.  I didn’t really know how to start to un-lazify myself and how to stay motivated to work on all those things each day that are so hard for me. Then, it hit me.

Running.

While it’s still hard, I’m still slow, and I still feel like puking, in the last few weeks I have been surprised to discover myself actually looking forward to running (what the what?!?). Apparently, I’ve started to unknowingly learn some discipline. So I came up with a few parallels to apply to my day-to-day laziness.

  1. Start with short, easy runs. I’m starting to tackle just a few things at a time. Thoroughly organizing just my clothes. Sitting down with the girls daily to play scales on the piano. Having theme dinners for each night of the week (Monday-slow cooker night, Tuesday-taco night, Wednesday-smoothie night, etc.) to make meal planning easier.property of Kristin Giuliani
  2. Have a training buddy. I have enlisted Nick, the master chef, to help me plan meals and to divide up the tasks that will fit best into his new, chaotic schedule. I have a standing (mostly) daily text date with a friend who has similar struggles to share scriptural insights, encouragement, frustrations, and chuckles.
  3. Take time to properly warm up, cool down and stretch. This is the hardest for me to logistically implement, but I know I need time alone to NOT do chores, to read, reflect and pray at the beginning and the end of the day. It’s a work in progress to figure out the right wake up and bed times, but I’m slowly getting there.
  4. Have realistic expectations. Just like I will never run a marathon, I will never be great at keeping a consistent routine, or having a pottery-barn-like organized house. And because of who I am, and because I like to see results right away, working through challenging, unending tasks will probably always be a struggle. And that’s ok.
  5. Find encouraging advice. I know that this looks different for everyone, but I have discovered a few great resources that encouragingly convict and help me to practically move forward by paring down to the essentials. I don’t read many blogs, but my core three are The Art of Simple (home life), Simple Homeschool (not just homeschool; parenting & creating a rich home environment), and Mel’s Kitchen Cafe (awesome, easy homemade recipes). I also plan to reread a challenging book by Elisabeth Elliot on being disciplined.
  6. Know when to rest. When it gets extra uncomfortable, I’m learning when I need to power through and when I need to stop and rest to avoid burnout.
  7. Make it fabulous and reward myself. It seems that having a trip to Minnesota for a chocolate filled end goal with friends has helped me to see running in a more fabulous light and has helped me to make it over the I-can’t-do-this hump. Not sure what this will look like in my daily life yet, but I know this results person needs something to work toward. Girls’ Night Out? Date Nights? Trip to Chicago to watch an opera? Homemakers’ Chocoholic Frolic, anyone?

The 10K is November 8. I still haven’t run more than 4 miles. Progress is slow, but I’m getting there. I’ll let you know what happens.

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On Tying Shoes

It is the dusk of my 35th birthday.

Wow. 35 years. I can see tinges of the classic “midlife crisis” creeping in. All day I found myself looking back and wondering if I have spent the last 3 1/2 decades well.

I think I can say that I am (mostly) proud of the person I have become. I have (sort of) learned to stop and think before I speak. i have matured to the point where I can (grudgingly) admit that my parents were right about many things (shhh…don’t tell my dad). I can (sometimes) admit that I was wrong.


But there is one thing I have always known about myself, but did not realize was a problem until today.

I am not a process person.

I am a results person. Unlike my sister, I do not revel in the repetitive and routine. I mean, I like to be clean, but if I had the choice between showering and pushing a “clean Kristin” button, I would choose the button every time. For me, the process is just the means that get me to the results.

It is not that I don’t recognize the importance of process, of how process impacts results. I took ballet for 12 years, and ballet is all process. How you learn and practice your movements determine how well you can perform. The way you move your body into each position is as important as the position itself. Quality process equals quality results.

I know process is important, but I just hate having to do it.

This summer, we made the brave idiotic decision to ditch the velcro and purchase tie shoes for our 3 and 4 1/2 year olds.

Kristin! What were you thinking?!

I know.

Honestly, I’m not sure what possessed me to do it. I think the girls told me they really wanted tie shoes and I thought, “Wow! How mature of them! I should encourage this!” So with visions of my prodigy preschoolers tying shoes themselves flashing in my brain, they were purchased and brought home.

My positive enthusiasm lasted for about 3 days before I realized that Lidia did not have the dexterity to tie her shoes yet and Madeline was just way, way, way too slow. Most mornings, we left the house with both girls crying and me screaming to just “grab those (mumble under breath) shoes and don’t you dare try to tie them in the car and get them all tangled up and I will just have to tie them when we get to where we are going.”

Over the past several weeks, there has been a recurrent theme. In conversations. In prayer time. In watching an amazing artist chronicle the creation of her works. In the post on how you respond when life changes…or doesn’t.

The message is the same:

The process is not just important because it gets you results. The process is important because it is a result in and of itself.   

So this morning, as we were getting ready to go, I sat down with Madeline to help her tie her shoes. I stopped, took a breath and really paid attention to what I was doing. As Madeline tied her first shoe, I watched how the muscles for fine motor skills were honed as her tiny fingers had to work really hard to correctly grasp and twist and pinch the strings just right. I noticed how she stopped everything else and really concentrated on what she was doing. I marveled at how she handled the frustration of dropping a lace by closing her eyes, taking a deep breath and trying again.

Strength. Concentration. Perseverance. Patience. All the things needed to climb giant rope ladders at a playground, have healthy friendships, and succeed in the future. All this gained from the stupid process of tying one stupid shoe.

Then, as I tied her second shoe (because, really, preschool shoe tying is SO SLOW), I took the opportunity to look right into her eyes down at her level and smile. She flashed an enormous, rare, giddy smile, said, “I love you, mom,” and gave me a big bear hug.

Wow. So much better than screaming and crying.

This. This is what I need to work on during the next 35 years. 

Ugh. But it is so hard for me.

I need to take lessons from Nick. You see, I am married to an extreme process person. Nick is actually an ancient Japanese man born into a modern American body. Results are important to him, but it is the process, the howthat gives him joy. He becomes alive doing all the tedious things that would drive me crazy: gardening, cooking, practicing scales on his guitar, shaving with a straight razor, fitting a hearing aid. Nick graduated with a Japan Studies concentration in college and he tells me that the traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony, Chado, epitomizes traditional Japanese culture. People would spend their entire lives working to fully engage in and master the process of their craft. The beauty and joy lie not just in the end result, but in the journey of getting there. If you have ever read Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you can hear this undercurrent running through her words.


As I thought through this today, I realized that this is why this phase of my life is one of the most challenging. So much of what I do is purely process. The changes and results of the work I am doing with the girls are either so far in the future, are imperceptibly small or are so short lived, that I often feel like I am achieving no results at all.

I hear the platitude “enjoy the journey” all the time, but I never really grasped the depth of what that means in my day to day life before today. If I never do more than put up with the process while waiting for results, I will have missed my life. Because nearly all of life is just that, a series of processes that refine us and make us into who we are. The how is not just the how. The how is also the what.

The process is not just important because of the result it produces. It is important in itself. Because of what you learn. Because of who you become. Because it can be enjoyable, fulfilling and beautiful. The process is the result. The process is the now.

So, on the dusk of my 35th birthday, I make my quasi-midlife resolution. Much like Brother Lawrence that Laura just wrote about, I will seek to find enjoyment, beauty and appreciation for the tedious, mind-numbing processes that make up life. I will listen for God’s whisper in the common and the mundane.

It will probably take me the next 35 years to even start to scratch the surface. Because by later this afternoon, as we were onto the third iteration of putting on and tying the shoes to get somewhere, I was back to the screaming and crying routine.

Sigh.