Our lovely friends Brandon and Abby just departed from the shores of Africa after a two week stay with us. We have never laughed so hard or created so many hilarious-only-to-us “one liners” in our whole lives. One of the lines that kept us laughing was courtesy of Abby. Every once and awhile (ok, daily) she would see something particularly crazy and say,
“You, like, really LIVE here.
This is not just a vacation for you.”
Ding. Ding. Ding.
This place is a sensory overload. It is full of poverty, dirt, life, love, stink and a whole lot of “crazy.” The money is so dirty and torn we often feel like we need to use hand sanitizer after handling it (Is that way too American to say out loud?). It’s hot, stinking hot. As in… everyone stinks here. Us included. Poverty knocks on our car window about 20 times a day. Not figuratively, literally.
The frustration levels from daily LIVING here can be off the charts high. For instance, Coffee Guy and Brandon tried to replace a door handle last week. They spent the better part of a weekend day fighting crowds to get parts, bartering for parts, then getting home only to find the door handle, despite hours of effort, will NEVER work. It just won’t. This is NOT the type of thing that happens once in awhile, it’s the type of thing that ALWAYS seems to happen.
To combat the rising feeling of constant defeat takes real effort.
How do we feel successful at the end of a day? It’s not easy. In fact, we’ve lost that battle on plenty of days. We’ve lost the battle enough to know we need to think strategically about what a successful day means for us. Here’s what we’ve found works for us.
Define Areas of Importance.
We set our sights on achievable goals. Making sure we are ALWAYS moving forward in the areas of importance that we’ve identified as crucial (not “crisis management” crucial but crucial to achieving our goals… there’s a difference). Identifying these areas of importance makes letting those less important things, like door handles, roll a little easier off our (sometimes not so) thick skinned “duck backs.” I have picked 3 areas of importance for the year that I need to keep my focus on, one of them is my family. Within those areas I make 2-3 action steps every day. I don’t want to live a reactionary life, been there and done that!!! I want to be intentional about my days and how they are spent. When I lead a reactionary life, just responding to the chaos around me all day long, I end the day as an EXHAUSTED mess crying on the floor and babbling “What am I DOING here?”
When I am intentional about my three areas of importance and the 2-3 action steps in those areas, the difference is INCREDIBLE.
For one, gratitude for even the smallest steps forward is easier when my focus is on having an intentional life. Gratitude helps ease the blow of all the frustrating Burundi moments… like getting the wrong change on purpose at that shop, mid-day diarrhea, the language barriers (yep, plural), the insane traffic, last week’s fender bender, and our bunnies just keeling over and dying.
Feel it, then Re-focus.
I am not suggesting we use achieving goals to cover up emotion, what I am saying is that sometimes what’s in front of me is so overwhelming it quite literally hurts. Call it insecurity or whatever you want, but I need to be constantly reminded that I am accomplishing something for the good of our family and the coffee farmers of Burundi… I need to SEE how we are moving forward. My list helps me to SEE the progress through the frustration. It allows me to experience the moment that I am in but not let that moment rule over or pass judgement on my entire day. It contributes to me believing THE BEST about myself and others by helping me to re-focus after all those frustrating “we really LIVE here” moments.
Celebrate even the “expected” accomplishments.
I’m talking less about mid-day cocktails and more about giving yourself an “A” when a task is completed. In our house, we believe in living room dance parties, no matter what the occasion… but especially to celebrate accomplishments. We believe in celebrating each other’s victories and successes, no matter how small… which on a really good day means that the rug barely gets cool from playing host to all our awesome (and awkward) dance moves. Even the EXPECTED accomplishments are celebrated. It’s ALL a big deal. Celebrating feels good and re-energizes us to continue. Always. Even when we don’t want to celebrate and have to drag each other into it.
ALWAYS WORTH IT.