The line froze in front of me from the book I was reading:
“What do you optimize your life for?”
The term optimize, for me, has such a tech connotation. When I think optimize, I think computers or technological devices. So what could this mean for my life, especially my daily life? As a mom, I’ve found it’s far easier to talk about or read about topics like this than to act on them, day after day while doing laundry and dishes and homework help. And rinse and repeat.
This is a question, though, that has been running on loop in my mind for a long time. Optimize, as I looked it up, generally means “make the best of, or most effective use of.”
What do I optimize my life for? And, more importantly, why?
It leaves me shaking my head in disbelief that our kids are now nine and nearly seven. As I’ve grown older, the train speeds up. Where I can recall vivid details from specific days in high school, and where time when my kids were toddlers often felt like it dragged, now I’m experiencing that phenomenon in which life is picking up speed more rapidly.
I’ll lament about it occasionally, sure, but even more so, I’m finding I just need to counter it. Need to linger, to appreciate, to savor. Most of all, to be intentional.
When our daughter Brenna was born and diagnosed with a lifelong genetic disorder, it was truly such a catalyst for me and Evan, for our family.
It stripped away the excesses and shook life down to the essential. It brought us together in profound ways that we never expected. And over the years, facing critical illnesses and living daily with caring for her special needs has pushed us to ask bigger questions.
Who are we? What do we value in life? Are we living each day in a way that reflects those values? What is most meaningful to us as we move forward and build our lives and cultivate our family?
My blog has been a little lost over the last year or so. Before my book A Different Beautiful came out, the purpose and intent of my writing was pretty clear: tell stories, promote my book. Post-book, I simply wasn’t sure what my writing and story-telling would look like going forward. I went through cycles of burn-out, lack of direction, frustration. Even though everything went well with the book, it became clear to me that writing another one wasn’t for me, at least for now.
And with that revelation came the constant considerations of what to write about on my blog, if I should even keep writing at all, and the purpose of it all.
It was when I stepped away from some online spaces – blogging breaks, Facebook breaks – that I allowed myself to think about why I write, what I love to share about, and, yes, what our family is optimizing our life for.
Three components jumped out at me: Curiosity, empowerment, abiding faith. The last is pretty clear – bringing glory to God in our days and our lives. This is an essential piece of our family’s fabric, and it’s been a gift for us to deepen and strengthen our spiritual growth in recent years. For the empowerment component, this reaches into our parenting and our desire to help others. We strive to raise individuals who are empowered to be responsible and hard-working, and we hope to empower others through our actions and intentional giving.
And finally, curiosity…which hosts an umbrella of our family priorities, including exploration and travel, experiential learning, reading and lifelong education, and creativity.
The clarity that opened for me was this: I want to optimize my life for deeper family connection.
Within that, I want to leave space and take opportunities for experiences we value that will allow for that connection – opportunities to read together, to travel together, to learn together, to grow in faith and serve others together. These three aspects of curiosity, empowerment and faith are how we want to live out our family’s “different beautiful.”
Today and going forward, my blog is a reflection of this journey. Not of an upward climb but of going sideways. Of finding our own different beautiful and designing our lives around that. Of optimizing our lives around what is most meaningful to us – and encouraging you to do the same.
It is a challenge, in the day-to-day, in the middle of laundry piles and grocery shopping and email responding, to keep these at the forefront, and I naturally do better some days than others. But it becomes more simplified when I consider how I can optimize my life for these values. After all, how we spend our days is how we spend our life.
Each of our lives look different, our values look different, our “beautiful” is different…how are you optimizing your life?