For months, we had a comical amount of unfortunate circumstances strike us down, and every attempt I made to turn our situation around failed. Enrychment itself was an attempt to make proverbial lemonade. But then January was even more difficult than it usually is, and I was getting no where.
I vented and reached out to every friend and loved one that would give me ten minutes to see if maybe they had some sort of insight to offer me. Nothing I tried was working - - someone else had to have a clue, right?
One of the friends I looked towards is known for her efforts in living intentionally and her inspiration spreads far and wide. We are in similar seasons of life as well, so I knew she'd have at least a little something to get me thinking. She said this to me in an email from February:
Do you feel like you are giving yourself enough time? Like, Jennifer time -- not yourself as a wife or mom or daughter or volunteer? I struggled with giving myself time to be ME for a long while, then I read Jessica Turner's book The Fringe Hours, and it totally changed my perspective and gave me a lot of encouragement and practical tips.Her words (which I trimmed down here) sent me into such a whirlwind of thought that I don't think I even took the time to respond. I kept thinking of her simple pieces of advice, and tried to put a lot into action as soon as possible. It took me a long time to start emerging from the fog I was in, but it was her should-have-been-obvious pieces of advice that set me on the right path.
I didn't initially decide to read The Fringe Hours (affiliate) because I felt like I already had a good grip on the ideas in the book. I already valued my hobbies and interests, I already took breaks during my daily life, and I already kept myself involved in enough things that I didn't feel shut off from the world, or clueless as to who I was. I know that's an easy trap to fall into when you're a full time stay at home mom, so I've always worked hard against that - taking on little work from home jobs, volunteer positions, and trying new hobbies.
My husband and I were both in the middle of a personal development kick at the end of this hard season when I took a trip to the library with my oldest. I thought since I was there I might as well look up The Fringe Hours to see if they had it, and I put in a request. I'm so glad I did.
The idea behind The Fringe Hours is that even in the middle of our busy lives, we can find small pockets of time between all of our responsibilities to spend on our passions. We often have this idea that if we can't do something from start to finish, there's not enough time to do it. When in reality, if we intentionally commit a spare 20 minutes a day to whatever the project may be, it will get done - rather than remaining a wish while we wait for larger spans of time. Additionally, we can utilize these moments for purposeful rest - something we all could use a little more of.
It took me a while to read because I had to keep stopping to think over ideas, or jot something down, but those kinds of books are really great, aren't they? They change our thoughts.
Here's what I got out of a book that I thought I had no use for: validation and reminders.
It's easy to forget that hearing those things are as valuable (and maybe more so) than hearing a new idea. Maybe that's not a struggle everyone has, but I certainly do.
The first part of the book asks you to really think about your passions and hobbies and find the things that really do something for your soul. Despite already knowing these things about myself, it was really fun to sit down and craft a list of all the things I love doing or that I have a deep desire to do. Things that I want to go forward into life being known for. I took it even further and broke each of those things down into lists according to how much time each hobby or interest takes to complete. Doing that helped me plot the moments in my day when I can make those things happen.
Additionally, I didn't call them my "fringe hours," but I was already making use of empty moments before reading this book. The biggest one being my 30 minute wait in the school pick up line. I usually read a book, chat with a friend, or crochet. But a small thirty minute break wasn't enough to fill my "me tank" - I had to start plotting more of them, and more importantly - spending them intentionally.
That was my biggest take-away. I have spare moments in my day, of course - but I wasn't pursuing my passions during them. I would rationalize that I was doing something I enjoy (like watching a show, playing a card game on my phone, browsing Pinterest), but none of those things got me anywhere or did anything to lift me up. I realized that treating my fringe hours like a gift to pursue my passions with would make me feel so much more relaxed, productive, and enriched.
One of my other hurdles was that I am both an indecisive person by nature and a hobby collector. I love trying my hand at all sorts of projects (I'm a hummingbird), and when I do I go ALL IN. Which means that I have supplies for countless crafts, books I can never possibly get to, and about 15 notebooks full of plans for projects I will never get around to doing. I was overwhelmed with the possibilities, and finding it impossible to decide what to spend my time on. I have always been frustrated (in all of my life) that as a Jill of all trades type, I never mastered anything or stood out in any skill. I have always been spread too thin across too many things for that to be possible.
What I ultimately ended up doing was picking a handful of things I wanted to be known for. I pictured people saying things like, "That Jenn, she's such a good _____ and boy does she love _______." And, you know, the grass is greenest where you water it, right? So I picked a handful of things that I decided were most worth using my fringe hours on - for now. These things may change, of course, but I chose things that would make me happiest in this season in my life. And of course, this means that I had to say goodbye to a few things - or at least set them aside for now. But it doesn't mean I can't pick them back up when life slows down a bit.
I wrote out a full day schedule for my entire work week so that I could pinpoint exactly where my fringe hours already existed, and where I could sneak in a few more. I'm not usually a schedule person, and because of the way I'm wired I tend to see them as a list of all the ways I can fail in a single day. BUT, doing this helped me see not only that I had pockets of time for working on ME, but that if I spent the time surrounding them living intentionally, I could find even MORE free time.
I know, simple ideas...but sometimes we get so lost in the monotony that it can be so hard to see!
Another thing I really enjoyed was her section on asking for and hiring help. This is something I've done a bit more of in these more trying months. My job as a chairperson for the PTA began to feel overwhelming, so I asked those above me to help me find a co-chair - and they did! Now I have someone to lean on and ask for help when I know it will be too stressful to carry the entire burden.
We also hired someone to help us keep our home clean. After crafting schedule after schedule to try and find one that worked, I kept seeing that every spare moment I could find within them was being filled with bigger cleaning projects (like mopping floors and scrubbing toilets.) I did not want to have such busy, structured days, and then have my only moments at home being spent cleaning. But of course - bathrooms need regular cleaning, and floors need washing.
Instead of always failing at those tasks, I asked my husband if we could hire someone to come take care of those chores for us a couple times a month. A distant relative posted on Facebook around the same time, saying that she wanted to take on a few more homes to clean around the holidays. I asked her what it would cost to clean all of my floors, scrub my two bathrooms, and dust the main living areas. The price was perfect for us, and we've had her come every 2 weeks ever since. I don't think I will ever regret making that decision! It feels so good in here after she's done her thing, and I love that it creates more time for me. (In fact, as I'm writing this, she's coming tomorrow, and it is going to free up 3-4 hours of ME time - I am so excited for that!)
Overall, I felt like I could really relate to Jessica (author of The Fringe Hours) in ways that I wasn't able to in other self help books. We seem to share many of the same habits and hobbies, which meant that she really speaks my language. She didn't leave me hanging with questions of, "Okay great, but what do I do about this?" like so many other self help books do.
No matter what your daily situation is, what your current phase of life is like, or whether or not you've got your hobbies and passions all figured out - this book can help you enrich your life and make the most of it!
Bonus: You can get a Kindle copy for only $2.99 right now! I'm not sure how long that will last, so hurry-hurry!