Photo by Tim Gouw / Unsplash

THANK YOU for reading Casey's Notes in 2023. I'm a drop in the ocean of options for how you spend your time, and I appreciate you sharing some of that time with me. Truly.

2023 was... A Year.

When it started, I was a few months into Sadadical and my energy levels were lacking. I made 2023 the Year of Zzzzzzs.

Focusing on sleep had a massive leverage factor to it. It was the decision that made a thousand other decisions. I was far (FAR) from perfect, but I reexamined fitness, diet, stress, and everything else that goes into sleep. Making changes that were obvious on the outside – people notice when you cut way back on drinking – lead to changing who I spent time with.

Because I was on Sadadical and at the post-pandemic, mini-midlife crisis phase, 2023 became a huge year.

I got closer to figuring out what I want to do with my life, what matters to me, how to give my best energy to my most important people, who I want to spend my time with, and how to let go of the meaningless many in favor of the essential few.

What started as the Year of Zzzzzzs became a year of finding what sharpens my blade.

After indulging in a few glasses of wine over the holidays, I realized two ideas born in 2023 still impact me daily: 1) let things take the time they take, and 2) there's more than one "right" way.

Let things take the time they take

We waste our lives railing against traffic jams and toddlers for having the temerity to take the time they take, because they're blunt reminders of how little control we truly have over our schedules. And we chase the ultimate fantasy of time mastery – the desire, by the time we die, to have truly mattered in the cosmic scheme of things, as opposed to being instantly trampled underfoot by the advancing eons.
- Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks

I've spent my life trying to figure out a better way. I disguise it as, I think in terms of processes, so of course I can find a better/faster/easier way to do this. The route to work, shopping list organization, order of chores, to-do list priority levels, workout plans.

I even tried to streamline changing diapers. (Time yourself and try to break your record – my best was 11 seconds.)

Everything had to be as efficient as possible. I got annoyed when the grocery store rearranged some shelves and slowed down my shopping trip. I kicked myself whenever I forgot to prep morning coffee the night before. I questioned other drivers' intelligence if they drove less than the speed limit.

One group that is decidedly not interested in efficiency? Kids. From the minute they're born, the world revolves around their schedules. Parents have zero control over when kids need sleep, feedings, and (highly efficient) diaper changes.

Early in Sadadical, I thought I could fit in the day's planned chore, a nap, and a trip to the science center. Foolproof, streamlined plan... until the unscheduled meltdown or bathroom stop.

I learned the hard way that parenting is a lot easier when I let things take the time they take. Leaving free time in a day and being flexible became a superpower. My daily mantra became, let things take the time they take.

I eventually learned to apply this mindset elsewhere. Grocery store reorganized (again... for some reason)? All good. I left extra time and didn't need the Golden Grahams anyway. Forgot to prep morning coffee? Now I get to enjoy the process. Caught a few red lights? Perfect, my kids have even more time to torture me with poorly executed knock-knock jokes.

There's more than one "right" way

Growing up, there was one right answer. There was one right way to do a chore (perfectly), one right way to take for a test (ace it), and one right way to play sports (win).

As I grew older, there was a right college major (engineering), right career path (linear), one definition of success (title, paycheck, prestige), one right girl to marry (Catholic), and one right way to raise kids (the same way I was raised).

I wasn't aware of any of it. It was the water in which I swam.

I brought the same mindset to parenting. There was one right way to behave in public, one way to interact with other kids, and one approach to cleaning up a floor covered with toys.

My need to find the most efficient way and define that as the "right" way went hand in hand.

Parenting is hard. It feels like walking a tightrope to teach life lessons without becoming a helicopter parent. But realizing that there are no right answers – kids are doing their best and trying to figure out life – has eased so much of the pressure of parenting. Rather than try to "instill the right way," I try to help my kids find their right answer while also teaching kindness, curiosity, and joy.

And it's not just kids. Everyone is doing their best and trying to figure out life. Everyone has their right answer, and allowing and empowering them to find it has made all the difference. (Except for loading the dishwasher – there is still one right answer.)

2023 was a challenging year in many ways. Thanks to these two ideas, though, I wouldn't change a thing.

2024 has a lot to live up to. But I'm in no rush.