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Starting at zero

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by Crystal Ellefsen

Crystal Ellefsen lives in San Diego with her husband and kids, where she writes, works, explores, thinks, drinks coffee, writes, makes videos, paints, doodles, sings, and writes some more.

I just got married, folks! And so far, my first two months of not being a single mom have been jaw-dropping. To be honest, I’m still a little in shock to be experiencing daily help, support and burden-sharing.

But, I’ll save all that awe and savoring the exchange of love for another time. I’m going to let it soak in some more before I attempt to say something public about my transition from single parenting to a blended family.

Starting at Zero

Today, I want to talk about starting at zero. A new year is always a natural time to rethink your habits, routines and priorities, but getting married and moving create an entirely new book in life, not just a new chapter.

It has been wonderful to have such a big life shift because it’s a fresh slate to make choices about my life, instead of just continue in unhealthy or unintentional habits.

My husband and I have determined that in our first year as a family, we want to start off creating good habits that will continue the rest of our lives.

To be very honest, only weeks after the wedding, I started to heap all these crazy expectations on myself. It was as if not having that single mom status meant I would suddenly have the capacity to add a thousand extra things to my to do list.

Thankfully, that crazy-talk in my head was short lived. That life of being over-committed, frazzled and exhausted is not what I want. It’s not the example I want to set for my son about how to live and it’s not the way I actually want to live.

grey-family-drawing

Single Parent to Productivity Machine?

I didn’t get married so I could accomplish more. Productivity was certainly not on the list of reasons. At. All.

I got married to share life with my best friend. Life. Share life. And sometimes there will be busier seasons. We know that.

But, as much as possible, we are trying to be intentional to not have a schedule that results in just rushing from one thing to the next, checking people off a list instead of being fully present with them.

And it’s not just about time being with other people. It’s also about planning to have unplanned time alone and together. It’s about making sure that not every second of our lives are scheduled.

Don't overschedule your life. | TheArtofSimple.net

Choices, Not Assumptions

For me, I like the idea of starting at zero. Choosing the absolute essentials and then making intentional choices about every single commitment and responsibility in my life. I am a creative visionary who gets things done. This can occasionally lead to… shall we say… having too many projects and commitments on my plate.

The absolute basics for me are my family and my job. For me, that is starting at zero. I love my family and want to invest in them and enjoy them, especially in this big transition.

My job isn’t optional because we need the income, but I also value working hard and contributing there to the absolute best of my ability. I want to continue to improve my experience and output at work with intention and care, improving work-related habits to reduce stress and increase quality. (I didn’t put God on that list, because for me, He is somewhere before that zero, not on equal playing field with any other role or responsibility.)

After my family and the responsibilities of my job, everything else is a choice, not an assumption. I have been reviewing everything I’m involved with, from volunteering at my church to even being a contributor on this blog, and making a conscious choice about whether that activity is right for this season of life.

Just because something is a good opportunity doesn’t mean you have to do it.

If you haven’t checked out Tsh’s book, I highly recommend it. Genuinely recommend it. And not just because I have the privilege of being a part of the community of voices here. I think she has articulated something in Notes from a Blue Bike that will be the next major cultural shift in our country and it’s refreshing to hear her personal stories about what that transition looked like the Oxenrieder family.

For years I have been craving a life of intention instead of survival. Sometimes circumstances make survival the only option for a while. Trust me. I know that all too well. Sometimes you do the best you can, recognize what you can’t control, and trust that things won’t always be that hard.

But, then there are seasons in life where you can start at zero and decide what actually matters without busyness being default.

For me, starting at zero means this:

1) Family
2) Job

On top of that, I’ve chosen to intentionally limit my creative side projects this year, keeping the focus on writing here and my Art of Forgiveness project. There’s a few other important commitments I’m making or keeping, but it’s intentional and limited.

What does starting at zero mean for you?

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Comments

  1. Congratulations and best wishes for a long and happy life together!

    Intentional is where it’s at. You’re on the right track.

    Your comments remind of the book, “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives”, by Richard Swenson. I heard the author on Focus on the Family, and he said when they scheduled and built in 20% margin of empty scheduled time, 90% of their personal pain went away.

    We we were created in His image to rest. Without “empty scheduled time”, we end up with stress, dis-ease, and pain. Bankrupt and overdrawn, in every area of life. He rested, and just like Himself, all His creation needs a Sabbath. I now no longer feel guilty about downtime, something I used to internally call “being a lazy slug”. I am working on changing that internal dialogue and instructing my internal critic to be holy, as He is holy, which includes rest, and DOING NOTHING. I can be just as INTENTIONAL about being proactive and productive, as I can be INTENTIONAL about RESTING.

    And you know what the Word says about newly weds . . . in their society, moms were already “stay at home”; and the newly married men were mandated by scripture to take a year off work and also stay at home. HOW MUCH MORE SO WITH A BLENDED FAMILY???!!! So you are on the right track. Stay the course, cut back even more when it’s possible, carve out and schedule and DEFEND your margin against all comers, and remind yourself you are created in His image to rest.

  2. Congratulations!!!
    You are absolutely right, after getting married everything starts from zero! And it seems like this is the learning point on everything and a lot of times, I think nothing but my family.

    Cheers to you and your family!

  3. Congratulations! I have been following your posts and so appreciate your “single mom” perspective as I was a single for several years myself and recently remarried as well. I’m so happy for you and wish many blessings for you and your family!!

    Prioritizing is something I’ve been thinking about as well. I’ve been working two jobs even though I’m married now and have found it difficult to get out of that survival mode. :/ It’s been a good but difficult transition to give up the reigns of being a single mom and making all the decisions. It’s weird… but sometimes it’s hard to let other people take care of you. I am at a place though where I am ready to let go of a lot of my fear and step out in faith and really simplify my life and basically focus more on my family than on survival.

  4. Congratulations! What a great attitude to have about this “new book” in your life.

    At our house we’re working to wipe the slate clean each month this year. Focus on one major goal at a time and leaving room for that goal to be resting. So far it’s been freeing and has made a difference for the better in our marriage and our home.

    All the best to you!

  5. What happens when “zero” is still an awful lot? we have five kids, one with special needs so even just the priorities of “family” and “self care” take up almost all of my time, with little margin… I want to be less busy but I have nothing I feel I can drop.

  6. “For years I have been craving a life of intention instead of survival. Sometimes circumstances make survival the only option for a while. Trust me. I know that all too well. Sometimes you do the best you can, recognize what you can’t control, and trust that things won’t always be that hard.”

    Love that.

    I recently finished listening to the audio version of Notes from a Blue Bike and even as a single mother of 5, I found it very applicable! On some levels, I felt she had read my private journals and other times, it felt as though she opened a window in my mind and let in a fresh breeze!

  7. “Just because something is a good opportunity doesn’t mean you have to do it.” My new mantra!

  8. How wonderful! I remarried in 2013, also, and am adjusting to blended family life (with five children between us!). There is nothing ‘simple’ about it, and for me I laid aside every possible thing to give space for us to mix as best as possible. I know this is only for a season and I’m so grateful for the chance to know what is most important.

  9. I love this message!
    We got a different kind of “restart” this year when my oldest started public school. There are a zillion opportunities for us to get involved, and my nature is to jump in with both feet, volunteer, and make my mark. Instead, I’m reminding myself that this is a long journey. The same opportunities will be there next year. This year, I’m trying to learn and observe. Just taking on small, one-time volunteer jobs until I know about where we might fit. It feels right to wade in slowly.

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