Monthly Archives: January 2015

and More Spring Cleaning

In my last blog I talked about spring cleaning. Hopefully you had a chance to either get started, or at least think about things that you hold on to for perhaps less productive reasons than is useful. In that same vein, I’d like you to take this thought process a step further and think about the clutter more broadly. Cleaning out closets is useful in making more room, either to find stuff, or for different stuff. I’d like to propose that there are other ways that our lives can get significantly cluttered and could use attention. The two that come to mind most quickly for me (from personal and professional experience) are time wasters and unproductive relationships.

The easy bandwagon to jump on is electronic drains. Whether it’s a night lost to Facebook, Pinterest, others social networks, video games or merely web surfing, people can lose a lot of time and receive little if anything back for their time. But those are obvious. What is more subtle, yet equally if not more insidious, are the things we spend time on that, fail to add real value to our lives, and rather, suck away precious time. What makes these items harder to identify is that it usually isn’t the “task” that identifies it as a problem, but rather the way we feel about the task. For example, if I made pasta from scratch because I loved doing so, I was putting healthier options on my table, saving money, my family felt valued when I did so, or any one of these reasons, then it might be time consuming, but there is a payoff. If on the other hand, I made fresh pasta from scratch for my toddler, who was going to eat 3 bites, and my husband could care less about the quality difference, then I should question whether or not this was a good use of time and energy. I’m not sure this is the best example, but I’m pretty sure that we all engage in some pretty questionable activities, and often they have a smell of “perfectionism” to them.

The other category of relationships is something near and dear to my heart. I’ve noticed that a number of my relationships have changed over the past few years and it has largely been my own doing. I’m not feeling angry, but rather more willing to let people go then I once was. That at times, has also included some pretty terrific people. But at the end of the day I’ve had to come to terms with the reality that every day is limited by time, as is the entirety of my life. Out of that awareness, I accept the responsibility and the opportunity to make the most of what is available to me. So, terrific or not, I’m more willing to let people go in favor of spending the time with either other people or activities that are helping me to create the best experience of this thing I call my life.

Personally, I would tell you that if someone had said the paragraph above to me 10 years ago, I would have thought that person to be cold, friendless and void of the capacity to have meaningful relationships. So please, don’t think as a result of one reading, I would expect anyone to make such a radical change. It has been a work in progress and still continues for me. But that said, I find that the quality of relationships I do keep, continues to improve, because I come to them more available, more willing to honor the work of maintaining them. It’s because I know they are mutual, and with less resentment. In turn, I feel more rewarded and valued by the people in those relationships, as well.

I hope you’ll take another look at clutter in your life and see if there are mental closets that need a little combing through as well.

 

Spring Cleaning

 

It seems that when I put away the holiday decorations their storage places shrunk. I thought I was putting away the same amount I took out, but I guess my decorations also gained some weight over the holidays. That prompted me to do a little pre-spring cleaning.

I moved on from the holiday storage and into some other closets in the house. Each time I go through this process I’m always a little surprised at how much junk I can accumulate in a short time. I don’t think of myself as a hoarder. (Although I’m pretty sure hoarders don’t think of themselves as hoarders either but I digress).

There is certainly a practical aspect to collecting some items. We use mechanical toothbrushes in our house, so we save all the toothbrushes and sample toothpaste boxes we get from the dentist. Take four family members with two annual visits each to the dentist and you get eight sets to donate to charity care boxes. Instant good deed.

When I save my older sons outgrown clothes, there are fewer to buy when my younger son grows into the same size. Thrifty.

I ran across a ceramic lid to a little trinket box I used to have. The box and lid got separated at some point and I hung on to the lid in case I found the bottom. I haven’t seen the bottom in a few years. But if I do, I will have a lid to match. Sentimental, but not so practical.

I also found quite a few medical supplies. Those of you who know me may realize that I’m a bit accident prone. I have quite a collection of ace bandages, slings, ice packs, heat wraps, canes, crutches and a walker. Okay the walker isn’t and never was mine, but it was nearly brand new when my mother passed away and I just didn’t know what to do with it so I put it in storage. Not even sentimental, but prepared?

The dilemma, of course, is that storage, like most things is limited. And after a while, it becomes cluttered and jammed, and impossible to even find what you are looking for when you actually have the need. When that happens to me, I find myself going out and purchasing the item, again, even though I probably have it in storage. This begs the question of how practical or thrifty the storage is in the first place.

So why do we do this? Sometimes it’s just a habit. Other times, we hold on to things out of fear. And still another reason is the desire to cling to something as if doing so, keeps its memory in the present tense. I especially identify with that last sentiment when it comes to holding on to my children’s baby clothes or their hand created mementos.

I’m not suggesting that we never allow ourselves to hold on to pieces of sentiment. But I am suggesting that we do it with mindful discernment. Is that decrepit rose bud that is about to turn to ash going to rekindle our romantic feelings for our partner? Or might we instead, perform a loving act of kindness towards them out of love in the present moment? Will our grown sons really appreciate us saving every toy from their childhood? Maybe, but I found that most of the items my mother in law passed down to us from my husband’s childhood were worn and dated. Our boys didn’t really play with them or appreciate them after the five minutes of novelty wore off. Given that experience, I’m not sure any future grandchildren in my bloodline will be any more welcoming of my hand me downs.

 

Is it time to take a look around and see what you have collected that is taking up unnecessary space in your world? Do you hang on to things out of habit or fear?   What might you experience good or bad if you practiced letting them go?

 

 

Sand Castles

Between the reports on the recent tragedy in France, and some personal stories of loss that I’ve recently heard, I am again reminded of the fragility of life. Most of us walkabout our everyday lives with the naïve sense that tomorrow will come and go according to plan. We hear about an event where that was not the case for someone else and we stop, give pause, and pick up right where we left off.

There is certainly nothing wrong with this. It’s what helps us get through the day. One of my favorite comedians Karen Mills has a funny bit about the absurdity of not taking that approach. Mills said she tried once to take Oprah’s advice and live every day like it was her last. The problem was it made her family too depressed because she ended every phone call with a dramatic “Goodbye, I’ll miss you”.

So how do we instead, find the balance between telling everyone goodbye as if it is the last time, and not living with such obtuseness that life won’t last forever? I appreciate the following quote from Pema Chodron:

“We are like children building a sand castle. We embellish it with beautiful shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of colored glass. The castle is ours, off limits to others. We’re willing to attack if others threaten to hurt it. Yet despite all our attachment, we know that the tide will inevitably come in and sweep the sand castle away. The trick is to enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.”

Not only is the quote beautiful, but instructive. Chodron suggests that we should play to our fullest ability, but not cling. These are the thoughts I try to remember when I crab about the shoes my boys leave in the foyer or the mud on the carpet left behind by the dog. It doesn’t always make me feel 100% better, but it does make me at least think. And when I force myself to think about the value I place over one set of my choices (children and a dog) over a things that I have (a clean or not clean house) then, I am by definition, engaging in the act of mindfulness. Regardless of what I ultimately choose, it is more likely done from the position of self- choice rather than numb reaction. I can only hope that when it is time for my sand castle to wash back into the sea, there will be a comfort in knowing I built it myself, it was the best castle I could have built, and I enjoyed it fully.

 

Who is the chief architect of your sand castle? Do you recognize the work? Are you enjoying it?

 

 

Happy New Year

Well look what the cat dragged in….. I’m back!

I took a break from blogging but I am hopefully back to stay. I’m still working on some of the behind the scene changes so please bear with me while I continue to work out some of the bugs. However,  I absolutely welcome questions, comments or observations about changes.  Thank you so much for hanging with me throughout the year, and a special welcome to my new readers.  I am truly grateful for your time.

For starter, I’m uncertain of my timing. For now, I am committing to one entry per week. There may be more, but I hope not less. With that, I’d like to plunge in.

 

Happy New Year.

Even though today is January 7 and not January 1, today is New Year’s Day, meaning, today is the start of a year that is 1 year newer than the same Jan 7 of 2014. Tomorrow will be a new year starting one year ahead of January 8, 2014 and so on. This isn’t an attempt to be silly. I’m dead serious, so let me try to explain.

New Year’s Day is associated for many with New Year’s resolutions. In reality, these are usually not resolutions, or things one is resolved about, but rather New Year’s “wishes”. They are often things we wish would happen, hope will happen, would be happy if the desired action came about. But sadly, they are actions which, more often than not, fail to mature into consistent or lasting change. Some will fail within a week or two. Others may last a couple of months. A study from the University of Scranton found that only about 8% of the 40% of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, actually achieve their goals. So, if by January 7 you have given up on your goals, you are clearly not alone.

There are two points I’d like to elaborate my thoughts on with regards to this topic.

First, If we drop the ball on January 7, or even February 7, why do we have to wait until January 1 of the following year to start again? As my opening paragraph suggests, every day is the start of a new year for us. We can choose to start fresh from where we are at any given moment. There is nothing more magical about 8:00 a.m. January 1 then there is about 8:00 a.m. on March 10th. The time to start is right now.   Start at the moment that you recognize you have the desire for a change in your life. Delaying until another time marking significance, is arbitrary and only means you are willing to live with the unwanted behavior a lot longer than you need to.

And that leads me to the second point.

There is a difference between resolutions and desires, wishes, hopes. A resolution to lose weight doesn’t mean starting a diet. A resolution to improve your relationships doesn’t mean scheduling a date night. A resolution to find a job you like is more than simply dusting off the old resume.

 

Here are some definitions for the word resolve:

Verb: to find a solution, to determine a course of action

Noun: Firm determination to do something.

 

If you want to achieve the goals above, chances are you have tried some of the solutions I listed above before New Year’s Day. Most likely, they weren’t met with lasting success, which is why they resurface year to year as a resolution for the next year ahead.

 

To make goals more than just a wish or desire, they require resolve. Resolve involves figuring out how you will get to the gym when you haven’t gone before. Resolve means finding ways to anticipate your pitfalls and have a “firm determination to do something” by having reliable support, structures and accountabilities in place to help you stay focused on your goals. Resolve means to search your heart and answer yourself truthfully about what has immobilized your efforts in the past towards these goals.

 

Resolutions are about what are you WILLING to make happen in your life. What are you willing to change, to give up, to work harder towards? Who or what are you willing to let go of in your life? What are you willing to stand up for, to be aware of and mostly to be vigilant about?

 

A posture of resolve takes thought and planning. It also takes dedication and perseverance. So, if you can’t get it all done by January 1, the good news is there are 364 other days in the year that you get to try again.

 

As always, I appreciate your comments and feedback! Until next time… take good care!