I turn 35 on Friday. In this year, I seek grace.

Sometimes I feel guilty and indulgent when I take good care of myself. I am cringing at the computer screen as I type that. But then I reread it and, it is true.

Monday is my one day of the week without my kids. On Mondays, I have towering lists of things to do. I don’t ever take time to eat a meal. I work. I gnaw on a hunk of cheese as I pass through the kitchen. I nibble on an apple while emailing. I often have my first sip of water when I chug 16 ounces in one minute at 2pm. It isn’t healthy. I want to change. Yesterday, inspired by my friend’s words, I made myself lunch. I tossed lettuce, egg, sunflower seeds and pear in a bowl and sat to eat. The entire experience was a surprisingly hard, focused exercise in being present with my damn salad. On Mondays, I am used to taking bites in between and around work. I felt uncomfortable sitting and eating by myself without accomplishing something else. I made myself not look at my phone. I meditated on my water glass.

After my extravagant salad experience, I returned to my studio. I felt bad. I felt irresponsible. I was annoyed with my feelings. It was 2:30 and I had to leave to get my kids in five minutes. I was in the middle of a sewing order that I needed about 10 minutes to complete. I shouldn’t have taken that time for lunch. I should have finished this. I should have waited to eat with my kids who will want a snack. Now I have to work with my kids and they deserve my undivided attention. But, more to the point, if I had worked more efficiently I would have had time for all of this. I would have also had time for a run.

And that second-to-last sentence is at the heart of what I am feeling right now. I feel like I am not working hard. I don’t want to feel that way. I think it is unfair. I don’t think it is true. I have, on several occasions this month, fallen asleep with my kids and slept through the night. This is new for me. For many years, I’ve lived well on little sleep. I miss those late night hours, every night; those hours were precious. I counted on them. I feel indulgent and wasteful when I sleep for nine hours. And a little lame, to be truthful. And even lamer for feeling lame about getting more than five hours of sleep.

In the last few weeks, I have had moments of feeling incredibly overwhelmed. I don’t get overwhelmed all that often. I tend to thrive in the cool-as-a-cucumber state. It’s ambient; the overwhelmed feeling doesn’t have an obvious source. I am encouraged because I think I am nearing a discovery. I am trying out a few different tunes, in search of harmony. Right now, this tune — the one where I criticize myself in the moments I lack inspiration — it sucks. It’s way off key.

We spent last weekend doing a deep clean on our house. It took all day. Six loads of laundry, recycling, bathroom, sweep and mop, the works. As we readied for our date that night I grinned and remarked how awesome our house felt. “Why can’t we keep up on this when it feels so much better this way?” I asked. Andy shrugged and said he didn’t mind our approach. He said we pick the things we want to do and eventually get to the housework, when that’s what we want to do. He had recently listened to a podcast where an economist evaluated different household’s approaches to cleaning. The economist discovered that the people who didn’t do much and then did it all at once were far more efficient (time-wise) as those who did a little every day.

I think there are a variety of ways one can define success and time efficiency when cleaning toilets might be on one person’s list and not on another’s. But I think Andy’s words are universally applicable: we pick the things we want to do and eventually get to the {fill in the blank}, when that’s what we want to do. This came up again today on a hike with a friend when she said she is so much more productive and happy when she is inspired. That she plans to live her life with the confidence to always do what she’s inspired to do, knowing that it is the right choice, simply because it is her inspiration.

I turn 35 on Friday. In this year, I seek grace.

This I know: I am solidly, happily present when with my friends and family, when on a run or in my garden; I am in the vortex when I am doing, creating, moving, caring.

This I want: I strive to be solidly, happily present — when I am alone and idle — with grace. I want to hydrate, work, eat salad and give into being tired, with grace. I want to trust myself, give myself the empathy I give others. I want to be, always, with grace.

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61 Responses to I turn 35 on Friday. In this year, I seek grace.

  1. Jessi says:

    I so relate to a lot of this post, Nici. Sometimes I wonder why I don’t have a healthy balance figured out yet in my 30’s, or at least, why I still feel guilty about how I use my time? It was good for me to read this. Not everyone does and that’s OK.

    I don’t think I’ve ever left a comment on here, but today, it felt right!

    • dig dig says:

      Glad you left a comment. It was a heartening one to receive for the first on a post I felt nervous about. :)

      • Laurel says:

        Just what I needed to read again. Seems when you are nervous to post something that is when someone really needs to hear it so they can also be nudged in the right direction and follow their heart. To not feel guilty when we are not all that productive when our kids are out or napping or the like. I am trying to challenge myself to embrace and just go with this flow of the river that I am in. Enjoy life. Be present. Good to keep in mind.

  2. Happy Birthday!!! I read your blog a lot and comment on occasion, but this post hits home. As a pretty happy person and a fulfilled mom/ batik artist I am really derailed by feelings that sometimes creep in and make me feel so inadequate in life. I can’t pinpoint where they come from or what triggers those feelings and then they are gone as quickly as they appeared. Good to know I’m not alone in this. I was also surprised I have a couple years on you only because you seem so much more mature than I feel… Hope your B-day is lovely, I’m sure it will be a beautiful day, as usual your words inspire. -B.

  3. No words of wisdom here. Just Happy Birthday, and that I would gladly meditate on that gorgeous water glass :)

  4. Becky says:

    What you’ve written reminds me of this opinion piece I read recently & keep coming back to – so maybe it’s not so much that your writing reminds me of it, but that my mind relates other things I read to this opinion piece. Nevertheless, here’s a snippet:
    “It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.
    Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. ”
    From: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/

  5. Grace says:

    Well. I love this of course. And happy birthday!
    I try to remind myself that balance ain’t static. We picture a resting state, a horizontal scale. It isn’t ever that. Always adjusting, tilting, seeking. A biologist told me it’s “dynamic disequilibrium.” I was like, “great.” :) I hope this is a wonderful year in all the ways you want.

  6. sarah says:

    I think I may be you and you may be me, we are one in the same. This is my life. My goal for this year (turning 34) is to have fun. I have been holding my breath, trying to hold it all together, for too long. This year, I will breathe and have fun, enjoying it ALL as it comes. I wish you a happy birthday and much grace this year.

  7. Wesley says:

    “We pick the things we want to do and eventually get to the housework, when that’s what we want to do.” This is such a true statement. Our house is always a disaster, but I believe it is because we are doing the things that we would rather do. And then, one day…it hits us – our house looks like a tornado went through it! So we agree to spend the day cleaning from sun up to sun down. And we love the end product and are mad at ourselves for not spending a little time each day working on it.

    Happy ‘almost’ birthday! Give in and allow yourself to comfortably do the things you want and need without regret. We all should!

    I’ve

    • dig dig says:

      I actually changed that sentence to {fill in the blank} because it holds true with EVERYTHING. Cheers to allowing ourselves what we need. Duh, right? Cheers to getting better at it.

  8. Shauna says:

    Happy birthday, dig! I also turn 35 this year…and i am pretty sure i ate my salad lunch out of the same bowl as you today. Enjoy every moment of your delicious lunch, and your delicious life.

  9. Kate Vaughan says:

    I needed to read this today. Thank you for publishing your thoughts on grace, Nici! I’m practicing the same in my 36th year. Happy birthday to you as well. :) Kate

  10. Ellie says:

    Wow, I am so feeling what you’re saying! I think when you’re hungry for life, it’s hard to know when to take a step back from the table. It’s so easy to overcommit, over-engage, to keep saying, ‘yes!’ even when you’re already stretched. I’ve been feeling frustrated lately that I’m not getting enough accomplished. Which I know is crazy because I’m doing SO MUCH!!! I remember you once quoted a friend who said she was going to “give herself permission to not be a total badass all the time.” I think about that a lot. I also just came across this ridiculously simple quote: “You can do anything. But you can’t do everything.” Now, why didn’t I think of that?

    • dig dig says:

      Oh yes, my friend Molly said that. I love that quote too. Thanks for reminding me about it. To not being such a badass all the time (literally raising my wine glass right now, Ellie).

  11. Britta says:

    Happy Birthday! And may you find what you seek this year.

  12. Dana says:

    Nici, I so feel you here, and I am really relieved to hear you sharing these vulnerabilities. You always seem so “together” on your blog, and I am actually happy to hear that you are taking a little more time to sleep, eat a salad, and the like. I am inspired by your ability to go to bed with your kids and I think I’ll try that this week! Thanks, as always, for the inspiration. Happy birthday!!!

  13. Sarah Phillips says:

    Nici – you’ve described me to a T! I can not sit still, and often times feel incredibly guilty for sneaking out to go to the gym after work, or sitting down mid day to watch an hour of mindless reality tv on my lunch break….but each time, I remind myself that with a happier mama comes a happier family! And I’m fortunate that like your hubs, mine is awesome, and totally appreciates and respects the need for a wee bit of ME time every once in a while!

    ((hugs)) friend….and Happy Birthday!!

  14. Katie says:

    Happy Birthday. I bring in my 35th year this month on a Tuesday. I work 40+ hours, have my little side crafty business, love eating by myself in silence with a book or a blog, and after picking kiddo up at daycare, I take the kiddo to the gym daycare to get out my Labrador like energy at the gym (I tell myself that she needs time to herself too) so I don’t harm anyone (or lick them to death). My secret to sanity has been a woman named Brenda. She is my housekeeper and visits me every other week. She is cheaper than a marriage counselor, as reliable as my great husband, and provides my Type A personality the satisfaction of checking off one of the bigger daunting tasks that used to haunt me. I enjoyed your post and wish you freedom from anything that causes you guilty stress, it counteracts the benefits of taking care of yourself.

  15. Jenn says:

    I can really, really relate to this post.

    But I turned 40 in the Fall and on New years I lost my mother…..it was a huge wake up call and you know what? do what you need to do, take that time for yourself, your girls and your family in general. Don’t feel bad, nor guilty. I too have a tendency to take a weekend and get it all done…and we are talking weeks of recycling, 6 loads of laundry and major cleaning….

    Take Care Niki. :) oh and Happy Birthday!

  16. finny says:

    Oh amen, sister friend. Just AY-men.

    And to everyone in the comments – AMEN to you all, too because YES. We all feel like this. Like we’re not doing enough. Being efficient enough. Accomplishing enough. Being productive enough. Paying attention to enough.

    But, the more we try to handle, without giving our brains a break, the less attention we pay to those things we truly value.

    I haven’t yet learned how to master this concept (says the girl who’s *thinking* about taking one day off before going back to classes on Monday after having worked nearly every moment since classes ended on 12/15), but I hope too someday.

    In the mean time – let’s all agree to give ourselves an effing break. Sit, drink your tea/eat your salad/stare at the plants in the garden/pet the dog without accomplishing anything other than that.

    • dig dig says:

      Sister, do you know how much I love seeing a comment from finny?! I do. Lots. I love your last paragraph a whole lot. Let’s do this. Now. Cheers!

  17. Julie says:

    Nici-I turned 35 today. At ate lunch at my desk on what was the most beautiful Austin day I have seen in some time, all because I wanted to “get a budget started”. I realized how crazy that was, left an hour early and am enjoying a glass if wine on my deck. Your post hits home! Happy Birthday my fellow Aquarian….

  18. Yep. I know. We all *know*. Thanks for putting it out there.

  19. Jean Albus says:

    Hello, dahling, Happy Birthday. I can’t believe you’ll be 35. Strange, I was having a conversation about balance with a friend today. Good post. I’d love to have a real conversation about it when we meet again. Love you.

  20. Maria says:

    Grace. It’s my one little word this year. It’s a word that I believe we as women need to give ourselves. There have been a few really great blog posts floating around facebook the last few days (momastery and lisa leonard to name a few) on the pressures women put on themselves to be everything to everyone. I know that when we can acknowledge that we are perfect being imperfect, we can let go of a lot of worry and put our energy elsewhere. I really enjoyed reading this tonight. Thank you for sharing this with your readers. I just finished Daring Greatly last month and have noticed I fear being vulnerable in major ways. Again, I’m being a typical woman striving towards an unrealistic status called perfection.

  21. Sarah says:

    Happy Birthday Nici!
    Oddly, I LOVE my sleep. In fact, most days I’m child-free I schedule in a 30 minute nap (I even set my alarm). I find I feel healthier, I’m more productive, I’m WAY happier, and much nicer to everyone if I have it. It really resets me in the middle of the day, and I’m not collapsing into bed at 8pm.

  22. Wow. Maybe it’s because I’m in a stripped down state, but this made me cry. My heart knew exactly what you meant as I read this. It’s as if we should tattoo “I Am Worth It” so we won’t forget, won’t let guilt creep. We deserve what we teach our kids is the most important parts of life: time to be free, time to create and complete, time to ‘be’ in our own heads. Happy Birthday.
    And thanks for writing stripped down raw words. I received them with an open heart and it felt so good to know I’m not alone. I set some words free in a post today. And, man, it felt good to know others heard them.
    You’ll find your tune. You’ll get there, but when the cassette unravels mid-song, man. You’re right. It flippin’ sucks.

  23. sian says:

    It’s so easy to put ourselves last and also to feel bad that we cant do everything. But we cant. There is and always will be more to do. Might as well look after ourselves (our most valuable life commodity) and do the things that make us happy. Weirdly like you a day of mad cleaning after leaving it for a while does make me happy. Other times it does not. Grace what a good word! Love this post xxx

  24. Amy says:

    One of my favorite song lyrics by Don Henley and what seems to have become my mantra this year too…”to want what I have, to take what I’m given with grace, for this I pray.” I often find myself silently repeating it over and over in my head when things get challenging. Wishing you a wonderful birthday and grace-filled year!

  25. Meg says:

    You are such an inspiration, Nici. Thank you for bearing your soul here, and for sharing something that made you nervous. I will be 34 this year and am feeling a lot of the same things – and reading that I’m not the only one helped! Happy Happy Birthday!

  26. Tiffany says:

    Thanks for sharing such the inner workings and challenges of your mind–this really resonated with me and helped give me peace to move forward.

  27. Kelly says:

    I seriously read this and my mouth nearly hit my desk/old kitchen table….
    Im giving you a standing ovation Momma.
    I just turned 37 this past Dec. and Im beginning to think that our mid thirties are all about finding that balance. Of finding ourselves in our busy lives, where we sometimes forget to put ourselves on the list of things to do.
    You words give wisedom and grace. Well done :)

  28. Johanna says:

    First time comment here too! I am turning 35 this year and it is crazy how old and young that makes me feel at the same time. I totally relate to this post….with four kids to run after I feel like I constantly swing from extremes; two busy or bored, nice kids or mean kids; in control or feeling out of control. I guess life is all about balance and how we are not always going to feel perfect in all aspects of our life at all times. But if we can be content in just some, that has to be good enough. I love your husbands comment! Thanks for your blog and for showing this new Montana mom all that Missoula has to offer!

  29. Sarah Jean says:

    I love Andy’s words. I need to remember that my periodic whirlwind cleaning is what I need at that moment and those hikes, dog walks, workouts, ski weekends are what I need at that moment! Thanks and Happy 35th! It’s been a great year for me and I’m about to embark on #36.

  30. Jenny Juniper says:

    Hi Nici! I’ve been an avid reader of your blog since Ruby was born, and I just found out yesterday that I’m going to be a momma too!! Can’t wait to keep reading your inspiring and thoughtful posts as my little sprout grows and grows. Keep up the great work!!! Cookies and high-fives from snowy Ottawa :-)

  31. Hipy Papy!
    Wishing you plenty of daylight and fresh air, cuddly-girl-giggles, artistic inspiration, creative motivation, and a dance towards grace in your next spin around the sun.

    And it IS so hard to slow down, isn’t it? Sometimes we need a reminder to step in and be a Mama to ourselves, too.

    Love your words. I think you give a lot of us a place to sit for a moment and breathe as we visit Dig. Thanks for that.

  32. Krista Redpath Pyron says:

    Hi Nici, this post couldn’t ring more truth for me right now as I was inhaling a burrito from El Diablo in my home office knowing I have about a hundred things I need to get done before my sitter leaves at 5:00 – feeling guilty about taking yoga at noon AND eating lunch! While I was eating, I thought I will check on mama digs and see what you and the fam have been up to… Ha, I turn 36 in a month so I am right there with you sister! Thanks for the post, love your honesty! xo

  33. melody says:

    mmm. GRACE. that there’s a pretty fantastic word.
    love and can relate to so much of this post.
    enjoy your last day of 34 mama! :)

  34. Wendy says:

    This post really spoke to me. I smiled and teared and felt this with you and for myself as well. Thank you for allowing me in to see that I am not alone, as I too enter my late thirties and am in need of a little more me.

  35. Melissa says:

    Happy Birthday! For some reason my 35th birthday was my most difficult. I’m headed for my 60th at the end of April, and it actually feels good. I hope you find grace and continue to seek it all your life. We all would do well to do that. Happy day!

  36. megan says:

    nici- you’re wonderful & real. grace suits you, but even more of it will be lovely.

  37. Melissa says:

    As I started on my 4th load of laundry today and hauled trash and recycles to the garage, I wondered if I’m the only sorry soul who lives like this. Other people always seem to have their houses all together and I’m constantly shoveling myself and my family out of the chaotic mess of daily living. It’s exhausting and so not worth guilt tripping on. Thanks fo sharing!

  38. Lindsay says:

    Nici – I turned 40 a few weeks ago and can definitely relate to what you wrote. Life is funny though and sometimes you (I) stumble a bit before taking a twirl. Happy, happy birthday! May grace and love surround you this year!

  39. daniele says:

    Happy birthday to my favorite Montanan whom I’ve never met but feel like is a friend! Cheers!
    thanks for sharing this too….I think we all feels this at times as moms of little ones.

  40. AMY says:

    Just catching up now.
    You know, kind of the opposite happens to me. But still with a healthy serving of guilt on the side.
    I know when I need a break. I go alone to do errands and then I go to my coffee shop and sit with a magazine and my coffee and enjoy my hour of quiet. I know when I need to tell my husband that I need some alone time and he helps me out and vice versa. But then. then I feel bad for not feeling bad about saying I need a break from my kids. I feel bad for not feeling bad that I could be getting a ton of shit done when I have two free hands and the freedom. I feel bad for not feeling bad all. the. time. How stupid is that?
    I always love your vulnerable posts. thanks for sharing even when it’s scary and uncomfortable.

    • dig dig says:

      I love this comment. None of what any of us are feeling is stupid. In fact, it is completely AWESOME that we can name it, say it, know it, own it and move into where we want to be from there. I think this is new to our generation. Our parent’s generation didn’t talk so much about feelings. They didn’t communicate. Our generation is responding to that (high divorce rate, sibling squabbles etc) with exceptional ability to say what we mean and mean what we say. I find is do encouraging!

      Cheers to letting go of the stuff we don’t love and embracing the stuff we do.

      xo
      Nici

  41. Dr. Erika says:

    Happy Birthday! Cheers to a grace-filled 35.

  42. Evelyn says:

    Hi. I’m new to your blog after following you on Instagram. Love your photos! I read that you uses the Canon D60 to shoot your photos. I have the same camera; love it. I just hate the downloading time, etc. I’m finding myself using the iPhone more, which I’m sure I will regret. Thoughts on this?

    Anyway, great post. As a friend of mine says, “our 30s are the lost decade.” I wrote about that idea here: http://twentyyearsoflove.tumblr.com/post/39856291628/which-is-better-your-20s-or-your-30s

    • dig dig says:

      Hi Evelyn,

      I use my phone more as well. It’s just so dang portable and I love that for documenting our mountain adventures (usually with a kid on my back!). But then, the times I grab my dreamboat I *feel* and love that profound difference. The heft, the focus, the depth of field, the shutter speed…

      Also, I take fewer photos than I used to….while I love having my camera with me it is also awesome to not have my camera with me. You know?

      I don’t really have a great idea here but can say that I use both and happily so. How awesome it that we have two excellent choices?

      – Nici

  43. dig dig says:

    Hi Evelyn,

    I use my phone more as well. It’s just so dang portable and I love that for documenting our mountain adventures (usually with a kid on my back!). But then, the times I grab my dreamboat I *feel* and love that profound difference. The heft, the focus, the depth of field, the shutter speed…

    Also, I take fewer photos than I used to….while I love having my camera with me it is also awesome to not have my camera with me. You know?

    I don’t really have a great idea here but can say that I use both and happily so. How awesome it that we have two excellent choices? :)

    – Nici

  44. Trbholt says:

    My Dearest Burb,
    “We pick the things we want to do and eventually get to the {fill in the blank}, when that’s what we want to do” wise words from my over-the-top son-in-law.

    You often tell me, “Take time for yourself Mom”; after I read this it made me think of you telling me this. Doing what I do, keeping busy, always on the go, sometimes “gnaw on a hunk of cheese” for lunch… being the way I am…I am taking time for myself because I am doing what I love to do, not what I HAVE to do. Everyone has different ideas of grace within their lives…for some it is taking a nap or reading a book…for others it is being crazy busy…this is their harmony. I also LOVE when I am alone and idle; this is another side to my harmony. I think you are in perfect harmony with what you do and how you do it, because it is YOU! Your other middle name IS Grace…

    Love you to the moon and back!
    Mom

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