Mental Clutter

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What happens when long-held ideas about our stuff suddenly meet a challenge not faced before?

This is a crucial question every professional organizer must have in her arsenal. The truth is, there is no single  answer because each client responds differently to challenges.  Some may respond positively: “Gee, I never looked at it that way before!” Others may have a bit more of a struggle: “I know it doesn’t fit, but it was a gift. I can’t get rid of it.”

Change is hard. It’s even harder when we are asked to change something that is dear to us. It might be a gift that we inherited from our parents that might serve someone else better.

Or we might be attached to an idea. Maybe even a very long-held idea. Perhaps even one  shared by many people. Then something happens–an agitator comes along and calls into question what we’ve held most dear.

We can choose how we respond. We can either pause and reflect about our long-held beliefs and thoughts, OR we can build a wall and hunker down in our thinking. The choice is ours. Maintaining our way of thinking without self-examination is obstinacy. Pausing to reflect is discernment. This is the crux of good, orderly direction.

Obstinacy makes us unyielding and rigid. Discernment keeps us fluid and present to  what occupies our mind. When we cling to ideas that no longer work, it becomes mental clutter.  When we are willing throw our thoughts and beliefs under the microscope, truth emerges. We may have to change our mind, or may find out we’d been right all along. It may just be the right thing to hold on to a gift from our mother even though it doesn’t work or fit. Only discernment will tell us the truth.

Recently, the idea of what it means to be patriotic has been under scrutiny. We may have long-held beliefs about patriotism and how best to display it. Like a gift we get from our mother, we can choose to respond in two ways: we can either hunker down and decide to never get rid of it because it is against our beliefs to do so, OR we can pause and consider our options. Perhaps the gift we got can be better used elsewhere.  Maybe it’s best to keep it for ourselves. Sometimes it’s best to express our patriotism by standing up for what we believe in, other times it’s best to kneel. Only a discerning heart can tell.

I’m not sure that I would’ve made the decision to kneel like the NFL players did. I would’ve considered whether or not the message got lost behind the action. I may have taken a different action. But their decision is theirs and I can only assume that it was done with discernment. It is not a wrong action, because it’s never wrong to stand up against injustice. Or kneel.

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A Life of Esteemable Acts

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It used to be that I would do one of two things to make myself feel better–either I would overeat or I would spend money.

I overate to the tune of being morbidly obese with a BMI of 41 and I overspent in the thousands. With the addiction to compulsive eating and debt to income ratio on the rise, I hid perfectly well in society. I was fat and so were you.  My debt matched yours.

With the higher weight and the higher debt came the greater shame and embarrassment. I crawled into a meeting for people addicted to compulsive overeating. I put down the food.

Five and a half years later, I still weigh and measure my food and instead of being morbidly obese with a BMI of 41, I am at a healthy weight with a BMI of 21.

No longer is there shame attached to my eating.

Today, I pay my bills. No longer do I throw them away in the hopes that the creditor will forget all about it. Yes, I really used to believe that. It makes perfect sense in a world where burying your head in sand seems like a good idea.

My husband, in all of his wonderfulness, does not know this part of me. He finds it hard to believe that I used to be that way, despite the evidence of what I’ve shown him (pictures, defaulted student loan notices, etc.) He knows me as the woman who keeps a clean and organized home, sticks to a regimented food plan, goes to meetings a few times a week, and pays the bills on time (mostly).

What happened? How did I go from being a slothful glutton to an organized and detail-oriented person?

A few years ago, a special woman entered my life. We talk everyday, I tell her what I’m eating for the day, and we talk about life in general.  She is a decade younger than me, but we have similar backgrounds. Our mothers are Irish, fathers Italian. We’re both bad at being Catholic, but love the Church warts and all. Our mothers were alcoholic. And we both have the disease of compulsive overeating.

One day, she said to me, “All the positive talk about ourselves and taking our inner child out to play is all bullshit. Want to know how to build good self-esteem? Do esteemable acts. Get your ass up out of bed every morning. Don’t overeat. Be honest.”

It’s really that simple. Today, my list of esteemable acts has expanded to include other areas.

Be available to those who truly want (not need) my help.

Shut up when they don’t.

Pay my bills on time.

Spend within my means.

Save for my retirement.

Save for a house.

Show up for work on time and ready to do the job.

Tell my husband I love him.

Write.

 

Do you want better self-esteem? Do an esteemable act.

Busy Boycott: Eliminate the Non-Essential

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I love to wake up in the morning.  Although, judging by externals, it might seem like the opposite were true.   I’m not one of those people who is all sunshine and bubbles as soon as my feet hit the floor. In fact, I don’t even want to talk to you. I need silence. That’s why I’ve made it a practice to get up a full hour (at least) earlier than my husband.

I love morning routines. For years, I’ve done pretty much the same thing every day: get my coffee, sit in my chair and read my meditation books. Occasionally, something gets added or deleted in the routine. The automation puts the right spin on my day.  My morning needs to begin so smoothly that I don’t even put the coffee on then. It’s prepared the night before and put on a timer. My coffee is waiting for me before I open an eye. It’s a beautiful life.

This week, I started Courtney Carver’s 21-day Busy Boycott challenge. It’s been a real eye-opener. I am now confronted with all the things that clutter up my day–constant Facebook status-checking. E-mail checking on my phone. Responding to calls whose numbers I don’t recognize (even just looking at the phone when these calls come in is a time-waster).

I’ve eliminated these distractions by doing these simple actions on my phone:

  1. Removing the Facebook app
  2. Removing (or hiding) the email app
  3. “Favoriting” friends and family contacts and keeping my phone on Priority ring ONLY. This means that I hear the ring of only those people I’ve favorited. All others go to voice mail. I can get back to them at my earliest convenience.

By eliminating these things, I find I have more time for what I love, what I am passionate about.

KNITTING!

This is a brand-new discovery for me. The first time I tried it, I almost threw my needles and laptop across the room. The woman in the video made it look so easy. Ugh. I couldn’t cast off to save my life. I had tears in my eyes. When my husband came home, he knew something was wrong. It was really that bad.

But I was determined.

The next day, I went to my local yarn shop. There was a hank of yarn just begging me to pick it up. I did, and fell in love.

Now, I could cast on and cast off.

That was a week ago. I am making time every day to knit, including it as a part of my morning meditation routine. It’s not perfect and I’m making a whole bunch of mistakes, but I don’t care. I love the process of it.

 

WRITING!

Okay, I already knew this. But here’s what’s different–I have more time to do it. It’s not because I’m working less, it’s because I am eliminating the non-essential.  Instead of watching episode after episode of home improvement shows this afternoon, I am completing this blog post. Sure, I watched some during lunch, but as soon as lunch was over, I shut the TV off. Now, I’m not against television. It can be a great tool. For me, it’s a trade-off–do I want the comfort of sitting in front of the tv, or would I rather hone my passion to write? Today, I want to write. It’s that simple.

Maybe later I’ll turn the tv back on. But not now, I’ve got too much to write.

 

 

The Bagless Day (Winter Beauty)

IMG_20160112_113643601 (2016-01-13T01_33_08.885)   (2016-01-13T01_34_03.166) (2016-01-13T01_34_34.852)The hike this morning was late. After eleven. Usually, I trek to the woods (when I go) much earlier, but cleaning was a priority.

The ground was soft, the forest floor carpeted with old pine needles and mud.

Should’ve brought my gloves, but the cup of coffee kept my hands warm. Coffee and walking, a perfect pair.

No scarf or hat, either, but it didn’t matter.  There wasn’t much wind. The collar on the down jacket was high enough for ear and neck.

Sometimes, in the sunlight, the jacket shines brown. Other times, silver. It’s one of those new, shimmery, lightweight, packable jobs.

It’s the same walk, every time: Park the car near the entrance, head east. Deep woods. People bring dogs here most days. They also bring babies.

Today, park workers were my companions. For what seemed like miles (it was only feet, really) I heard the loud, muffled conversation of two men clearing a stream.

Birds, what few remained in this bitter Northeast cold, were nearly silent.

Consider the ravens…

No indoor shelter, only feathers keep them warm.

…they have neither storehouse, nor barn.

Yet here they are existing–no, living. Finding food in visibly dead woods.

I felt my pockets, pockets! A gorgeous gift of winter, little things (and big) can be tucked away in the crevices of clothing.

Cell phone?

Check.

Wallet?

Check.

Keys?

Check.

I had all the material items I needed. Everything else remained at home, tucked away in a backpack for another day.

Unencumbered, I left the park.

 

 

 

 

The Mindfulness of Being Sick

When was I hit by a Mack truck?

This was my first thought as I stumbled out of bed at 9 this morning, 4 hours later than my usual wake up time.

At least the nausea and vomiting had stopped earlier last evening. The body aches and head throbbing were just aftershock.

Chicken soup (homemade), Greek yogurt (homemade), and now coffee (again, homemade).  Eating is getting back to normal.

There is nothing like illness to make you take a look at what is most important now.  It keeps me present to the task at hand. It keeps me mindful. It’s really hard to worry about next months bills when your stomach is doing somersaults.

Mindfulness and minimalist are the buzzwords of today. It makes sense. Minimalism isn’t just about having less, it’s about not being consumed by stuff so that you can live more in the moment (mindfulness).

Being sick jolts me into the present. What exactly can I do today besides sleep? Not much, but I can eke out what is most important–eat for nourishment and get some writing in.