manifest abundance

My intention

This post is the third in a series of posts about my experience working through Charity Craig’s Manifest Abundance 60 Day Challenge. This particular post is about the intention I set. Here are the posts in order: #1, #2.

As I mentioned in my last post, I started the 60 day challenge at a time in my life when I was emerging from the liminal space that is the baby-having years. I know now what my family will look like, that I’ll have a son who is four years older than my daughter, and I can think of my life in terms of this family. It’s as though I’ve filled in the blanks on a family tree, gone from a nebulous cloud of how many kids and when to a timeline of when we can get rid of the stroller, when we can go to Europe, when we’ll have a twelve- and an eight-year-old, when one will graduate and one will start high school . . . as much as one can make those plans, I know, because we have no idea what each day will bring.

My original intentions and visions focused on this family as a whole and put on paper much of what I’ve thought about and what my husband and I have talked about over the last several years. I’d like for my home to feel peaceful and welcoming, for my kids to be able to play and create here, for us to be comfortable watching movies and baking and doing jigsaw puzzles together. I’d like for the holidays to feel special and memorable. I want my kids to feel safe and happy here and for them to learn and grow and hopefully venture out into the world with good heads on their shoulders and the ability to focus on what matters and shake off what doesn’t. I’d like to plan experiences that bond us as a family and give us a collection of trips and adventures that we remember and talk about well into my children’s adulthood. I want us to contribute something positive to the world at large.

These are good ideas. They really are.  I hope someday I look back and see how they became reality.

But these are not my intentions for my life.

During one of our early check-ins, Charity challenged us to look back at what we’d written and determine if our intentions were truly within our control.  I was pretty happy with my intentions at the time–I mean, did you read them? They’re great!–and I wasn’t sure why she was trying to make everything about me. I hadn’t even signed up for this for me; I’d signed up as a way to get my family’s home life together (plus, I was in the midst of navigating a global pandemic lockdown with my three-year-old and giving myself these awful injections every night for my unborn child . . . nothing was about me at that moment).

But Charity pointed out that the only people we actually have control over are ourselves. If we set intentions for everyone around us, we lose the ability to make real progress because we’re dependent on others, not ourselves.

One example she used was that if we wrote down that we want to have a happy family, that’s not a bad thing to want, but it means we’re suddenly dependent on every member of our family being happy. And what do we do? We start trying to control everything about everyone else and taking on responsibilities that are not ours.

Instead, if we want a happy family, we should be focusing on making ourselves happy moms. Sure, there’s the old joke about how if mama isn’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, but this goes deeper than that. We are much more capable of giving our best to those around us and guiding others to becoming their best if we first focus on making ourselves the best we can be.

Let me tell you, that thought saturated my brain for the next few weeks. It makes so much sense. It shows up in the smallest of ways–one thing Charity had us commit to doing was drinking enough water every day–and in much bigger ways, which is why Charity spent time on the Enneagram and how it helps us know and understand  ourselves.

I thought about the person I am when I commit to doing what I need to do to make myself happy, to be the best version of myself. When my house is relatively clean; when I have a meal plan and groceries for the week; when I’ve had a good night’s sleep, just the right amount of caffeine, and eat healthy, filling foods; when I’ve gotten dressed in actual clothes in the morning and gotten something useful done for the day; when I’ve had a little time to work on a craft and a lot of time to read . . . when all of these elements are in place, I am a very happy person.  I’m not a perfect person, but I’m able to stay pretty calm and patient, I can handle small inconveniences without getting exasperated, I can sit and enjoy time reading or playing with my kid. I’m in a good mood when my husband gets home and look forward to time with him and weekends with all three of us. My head feels clear and my mood is stable.

Then I thought about when everything goes awry. If I wake up to last night’s dishes in the sink, didn’t get enough sleep and compensate with too much caffeine, forget to eat lunch and start annihilating random snacks at 3 pm . . . ugh, I don’t even want to describe the days that I don’t do anything to take care of myself and what it does to my overall disposition. And I’m not talking about the crazy days when things are out of your control–illness or a power outage or something–I’m talking about the days when I simply don’t focus on myself and prioritize my needs, and then I’m crabby and short with everyone around me. Oh, and I find ways to blame my bad mood on anything or anyone other than myself because I am a real peach.

Charity didn’t reiterate the same cliche advice about putting on your own oxygen mask first (I think we’ve all heard that a million times); instead, she challenged us each to think about what we need to do to prioritize making ourselves happy and notice the ripple effect it has in our lives. She explained how setting our own intentions puts our lives back in our control and will have that same ripple effect.

I ended up reworking my intention until I was at the center of it. It was a mix of strangeness–Is this selfish?–and empowerment–no, it isn’t; I actually matter. My new intention focused on prioritizing my own physical and emotional health so that I can be the happiest, best version of myself and can fully engage in and enjoy these next few chapters of my life with my kids at home.

And that is an intention that can hold up a cathedral.

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