Friday’s Focus—From Stuff to Simplicity

About a month ago we made the commitment to put our house up for sale and in preparation for the realtor’s picture day, we’ve been busy packing, boxing, disassembling, and either donating things or throwing them out. This has shown me two things: we have way too much stuff and the different ideas my husband and I have of ways to get rid of things.

I tend to just toss something either in a give-away pile to a local drop box of whatever charity I can find in the nearest parking lot, or throw it out in the garbage. Even larger things (thank you strong garbagemen). I want to add, as a caveat, lest my throwing things out is seen as being cavalier, it’s not. I would be more than happy to donate to any number of organizations but they have become extremely picky at what they take and won’t come to my zip code.

Trust me. I’ve tried….numerous times, from my father-in-law’s passing, to my mother’s passing, and now to us planning our move. I ended up having to hire a haul-away company for my mother’s things because no one would take the furniture. In speaking with the owner of the company, he agreed with how difficult it is to donate these days where we live but what I liked about them is that they bring the items they pick-up to other agencies first to try and donate them before just trashing it. Since I don’t have the capability to move larger items to the nearest facility (about 20 miles away) and take a chance they may not even accept the donation, this doesn’t leave many options open, so it’s garbage, parking lot donation box, or haul-away.

My husband holds onto things he’s more than ready to let go of but would rather give said object to someone he knows, which I think is actually very admirable, sweet, and thoughtful, but it also makes it harder and takes longer to get rid of things which end up in bags in his car until he sees the person! I’m a big believer that things find themselves to people who need them and so, I figure, let the Universe decide who gets what, but my husband goes for the the more personal touch.

In the last few years, we’ve found a middle ground focusing on a community center we know of that does great things for the neighborhood and is much needed by providing crisis intervention, information, prevention, and support services to individuals and families. This is something we both strongly believe in and we’ve come to make special piles dedicated to donating to this center. We strongly believe in this place and what it does and means for the community, and personally, I’m happy because I’m still getting rid of things and my husband’s happy because even though he may not know the person’s name that will receive that shirt or book or whatever, he knows the type of people who frequent there and is more than happy to help those individuals and families out.

Now that we need to start weeding through a lot more stuff for our eventual move we’ve both become a little more ruthless at what stays, what goes, and how it goes. What I’ve found so interesting is not just our divesting styles but the psychology at play when you go through a clean-up.

There’s our parents philosophy that creeps through with “We paid for it so we need to hold on to it, because throwing it away is like throwing away good money” and then there’s, “Well, maybe one day we’ll use it.” And of course, the favorite, “Oh I’ll fit into that again…..It will come back in style…I’m sure I can use it somehow…..Every time I’ve thrown something out before I’ve needed it a few days later….” Not anymore. Whatever it is if it hasn’t been used yet—off it goes to a token person or a token garbage bag.

There are some things that are harder to toss than others because of personal attachments but it’s also those same attachments to people or places that make it easier to let some things go if the memories aren’t so good. I’ve learned that the memories in our minds and experiences of events mean so much more (and take up less space) than any tchotchke or T-shirt that doesn’t fit anymore anyway.

Packing things for our move has been very cathartic and a step towards simplicity that we’ve been yearning for. I’ve been yearning for. Every spring of course, there’s the token spring clean-up but judging by the amount of things we still have, spring wasn’t enough of a motivator. Moving out of house is though!

I’m craving the need to shake out and crawl out from under anything excessive and using that space to stretch and breathe. It’s more than metaphor or an inspirational passage. As much as I’ve been working on myself on the inside to rid things that don’t serve me, so I’m moving on to the outside. It’s time to create that much needed space around me in addition to inside me and it feels good. Looking around at the boxes already packed and the piles of books still needing to be gone through, there’s so much to do, but it’s a start.

When will you have enough of your stuff and what will make you move from Stuff to Simplicity?

#takingitdeeper

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Now.

Every single one of us.
Has something to say.
It’s not just a story.
It’s their story.
It’s your story.
It’s your time to tell it.
It’s your time to write it.
To draw it.
To sing it.
To be it.
Will you?
Or.
Will you let it remain.
In your mind.
In your soul.
As a thought.
As a desire.
As a dream.
Let’s make it so.
And be.
Who we have been.
Dreaming ourselves to be.

#taingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Our Dash

Changes changes
The planets are aligning
Our stars are falling,
The winter full moon
shines a light for the storm coming home.

Passages and endings make way for new beginnings, yes, but couldn’t there yet, just be one more day? For some, a death is expected while for others, it’s not. Either way, it’s a part of the bigger cycle but who cares about the bigger cycle when all you want is that one more day?

It makes us stop and snaps us out of where we are. I’ve written before about how a death can make us take stock of where we are in our living, and where we think we’ve been, but I’ve found that with each passing, the snap is fresh and the restocking feels brand-new. When my mother passed away, my life shifted in ways I could never have foreseen except by first-hand experience. It’s still so new to me and I keep sifting through my mental attic and basement; shuffling, sorting, tagging, boxing, and working through old habits, memories, thoughts, and baggage that don’t serve me any more and so I don’t want them around. It’s a process, for sure, and one with a capital “P”.

Then came news of the deaths of several musicians and actors. All well-known, all larger than life, suddenly a headline with a new date added to the end of a dash. It was shock after shock for many people. The papers reported most of the causes were from long-term illnesses so it’s safe to say that their passing was more of a surprise for us than for them, but no less devastating. Grief doesn’t care how famous you are.

David Bowie and Glenn Frey’s deaths hit me the hardest. I felt sucker punched. They were the soundtrack to anyone growing up in the Seventies. Pick any song by either of them and guaranteed there is a memory curled and wrapped around it. It was the theme to boyfriends, first loves, summer nights, great friends and days filled with the innocence of blue jeans, long hair and the freedom of a full tank of gas in that first car you bought with your own money. It was about taking the world by the balls and we were innocent and hopeful enough to think we could. No matter what, it was all going to be alright. Their voices, their music was inspired and inspiring.

“People don’t run out of dreams, they just run out of time” sang Frey in “River of Dreams.” It really is all about that dash in the middle and what you do with it. The death of loved ones and creative giants like those we’ve recently lost grabs us and shakes us and challenges us to look at ourselves and our dashes. Their music and movies are a reminder of our younger selves and who we wanted to be, who we could be. Not like them necessarily, but the best of us.

“What will be left of all the fearing and wanting associated with your problematic life situation that every day takes up most of your attention? A dash, one or two inches long, between the date of birth and date of death on your gravestone.” ― Eckhart Tolle

Last night I stood outside under the light of the moon, and stared, in awe, at the alignment of the planets and I couldn’t help but feel the smallness of my humanity under God’s dome.  I will do this again tonight, and then, when the snowflakes begin to fall ushering in this Winter’s first fury, I will come inside, sit by the fire, hug my loved one, and pay attention to my dash.

Will you?

#takingitdeeper
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Friday’s Focus—Taking It Down a Notch

You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please everyone all of the time. —John Lydgate

One day, when I was very young, I went over to a friend’s house after school. We were playing outside when two sisters from the apartment next door came over to play, too. They were more her friends then mine, but when I met them once or twice before, we all got along fine. On this particular day though, I still don’t know what exactly happened, but all of a sudden, there were whispers behind cupped hands, and the sisters were looking me up and down. Pretty soon, words were exchanged and adding to my confusion, the friend I was originally playing with, turned against me and joined them as they made fun of me and now mocked me outright. Confused, shocked, hurt, and in tears, I rode my bicycle home and in between sobs told my mother what happened. I can still remember what she told me: “Honey, it’s not nice, and it’s not fair, but there will always be someone who doesn’t like you.”

Unfortunately, such behavior is not regulated to the whims of children and playgrounds. Even as adults, I’ve seen how you don’t even have to do anything for someone to find a problem with you. It can be the color of your skin, the style of clothes that you wear, even the kind of dog you have. You could be breathing too hard, laughing too loud, scraping the fork too loudly against a plate (yes, I’ve actually heard these).

As a basic tenet of decent humanity, we are asked to hold our fellow beings in love and light. We can all do that on our best days, but can we also do that on our worst days? It’s easy to find the goodness in people and situations when life is going your way, but what happens on those days when things aren’t going so smoothly or there’s always something in the way of you doing what you need to? Suddenly that deep love toward your neighbor has turned into shallow, ego-driven, back-biting judgement:

The cashier yesterday who was so sweet to ask about your sister’s illness, today is a busy body who can’t mind her own business.

The bank teller who was so efficient and succinct is now cold and unfriendly.

The gas station attendant who was full of jokes last week and humorous observations, now just talks too much and doesn’t know when to shut up.

Why does she have to wear that?
Why does he have to walk like that?
Why are they in our neighborhood?
She shouldn’t; he should but no, not them; they shouldn’t be doing…

It’s amazing how we have become a society of tearing apart our own fabric of being by micro-moralizing and pitting our individual preferences and beliefs onto the person or group next to us. I’m afraid that this level of dislike and distrust has become so ingrained in our psyche that our judgements against friends and strangers, alike, is now rooted in our subconscious to the point that we don’t even realize we are doing it anymore.

We criticize and judge groups and organizations for finding fault with everyone that is not of part of them, but what we don’t see are how we are those groups when we judge those in our own circles. We’re becoming numb to the lack of respect in the differences that make up all that we are as individuals and societies. I personally know that there are pockets of people who hold spaces of unconditional love, peace, and grace and are working toward unification and healing rather than tearing apart and destroying each other, and in this, I take great hope and inspiration from them. But it’s not enough. We need more than just pockets.

I also believe that it’s the media’s perpetuation of granting attention to these squeaky wheels that has helped facilitate the hate, disdain, and repugnancy of differences into a level of micro-moralizing that has reached epic proportions. Taking it deeper and looking back through history, there have always been separatists whose actions were, and are, rooted in fear and ego. As long as humans have existed with each other there has always been fighting and warring, but there has also been peace and amiability and fairness. I think that at this time in our history, human beings have tipped the scales of acceptance versus dissension and not in a good way. Everyone is screaming for their right to individuality and there’s nothing wrong with that but I think it’s gone too far.

We need to find ways to bring out the best in each other not the worst. It’s not too late. Yet.

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Spinning Tops

The more I have to move the more I want to sit.

The more I get a chance to sit, the more I want to move.

There are days, on the outside I sit still, while inside a storm rages and fireworks explode.

Then there are days, on the outside I move with the frenetic energy of a thousand whirling dervishes while on the inside, there is nothing but silence.

If I allow it, I know that the two energies will merge and become a pulse, creating its own heartbeat, and then, if I surrender, I will have no choice but to move to the beat of the syncopation.

The waves of energies are too strong to withstand, or is it me too weak to stop them?

In the end, there is no other choice but to breathe into my heart, into the center of the storm, and let this new heartbeat lead me to a place.

To live with only one or the other is merely existing. It is half-living to be in either all movement or no movement at all.

Stillness within movement; peace within action.

I can still feel the tension between the ebb and flow
of
tightness and looseness
and
looseness and tightness

and the force of those currents ready to pull me away in either direction.

These are forces within each one of us. You can feel it too, if you give it half a chance.

Nature even knows this. Even when a river is frozen, the water below still flows and the hurricane, destroyer that it is and yet beautiful in its fearsomeness, holds a center of calm.

When you find that moment, when you feel that kiss from God and the bliss of the perfection of balance, let the world wait. Succumb to the flow and sway in the rhythm of what for many of us, seems elusive but is not impossible.

#takingitdeeper

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Fresh Pages

I don’t know about anyone else’s house, but in mine, there is one “master” calendar that hangs on the wall in the kitchen and is the repository for everything and anything that happens under this roof—planned and unplanned but noted once it happened.

At the end of each year, somewhere between Christmas and New Year’s, I take it down from it’s hallowed space on the cork board and with a brand-new calendar in tow, I make myself comfortable in a corner of the house and begin the obligatory transfer of family and friends’ birthdays, anniversaries, and any other milestone moments.

I typically start with a quick scan of the month copying events I already know by rote, but I check anyway to make sure I got the correct date. Then, I take a second, closer look at any days that had comments written inside. In any given month, I find my way around the maze of oil changes, dentist appointments, and miscellaneous call-backs that needed to be made. Sometimes there are stretches for months, where there is something written in each day with appointments and activities, that by the time I get to August, I need to sit back and take a few minutes’ break and stretch from the intense inch by inch scrutiny.

As I decipher my shorthand and scribbles, the memories of each event come rushing back: That emergency mechanic appointment I had to squeeze in before our vacation (“but it’s a new car, darnnit!”); the phone call we received when we found out our granddaughter was born; the reminder that we need to order wood again for the winter (and scratching our heads swearing we just did that); my 30 year high school reunion (!!); classes starting, classes ending; a retreat one weekend and a weekend in Upstate the next; and it goes on.

Transferring those dates on the calendar is like reading a diary of my family’s life from the year, which is what a calendar can be I suppose. It’s this recording of the daily and monthly minutiae of our life that is the fabric of memories, some good, some bad, and some bittersweet.

A few years ago, the big build-up was my husband’s health. Looking over that calendar year as I transferred dates, I relived the memory of his chemotherapy treatments whenever I came across his oncologist’s name every few weeks with the appointment time scrawled underneath. We then began to add the countdown to his last treatment, until finally, happily, added to the calendar in block letters: “Cancer Free”.

This year’s focus, as I looked back, was my mother and her health and I could see the intensity of the changes reflected about mid-year when the doctor appointments increased. I began to make notes on the calendar of her falls and hospital visits; then came the closing date of her apartment she lived in for the past 15 years followed by scrawled names of appointments with facilities, social workers, and nurses. And then, finally, the date she entered Hospice and a mere three days later, the day she passed.

Every year, every month, has its own story. Some have a theme that runs through the year and others are just pinpoints of hours or days of unrelated events. As the years have passed, I’ve become more selective over which milestones I carry over to the blank spaces of the new calendar. Of course not every event gets transferred but I think this year has been an especially bittersweet reflection as we added the joyful event of the birth of our first granddaughter, and then the sad, but inevitable date of the passing of my mother.

January is already beginning to fill up, and that’s okay. It’s even good. Because isn’t that what it’s about? It’s those moments in between that keeps us smiling, keeps us loving, and keeps us moving on…..to fresh pages.

#takingitdeeper

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