Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Arch-Enemy: Clutter.

I have always had a weakness for clutter - papers, books, memorobilia.  My mother's favorite childhood comment attributed to me is supposedly once when she asked me to clean up some mess in my room, my response was "but I like to have my things around me." Ha ha, Mom.

In college, my desk was always heaped with stuff.  Added to my tendency to light candles and leave the room, I'm surprised I didn't ever burn the place down, but that's another story.  In adulthood, it took over my kitchen counters and dining room table.  Even when I declare war on clutter, there always is a small pile of stuff that needs to go somewhere - to the filing cabinet, in the mail, to someone else, or to someplace I haven't figured out yet - and then that little pile soon procreates into enough paper to side our house all heaped on my kitchen counter.  I'm a pretty organized person and I've often wished for the Samantha Stevens (you all remember Bewitched, right?) ability to twitch my nose and magically direct the next step of making things go where I direct them.  Without that magically ability, my human tendency is to leave the nicely organized pile of things to be filed or moved or donated or whatever until I get around to that next step ... which often will be a long time (or even never) before I get back to it. 

We now live in a two story house with a finished basement.  By "we", I am talking about 2 adults, 2 pre-teens, two dogs and two cats.  While we are not going to be chosen for hoarders or any other similar reality show, the clutter is killing me.  Don't even get me started on the basement because that is where piles of "I don't know what to do with it" go to die.  But every flat surface in this house is covered with unbalanced piles of stuff.  It isn't dirty and it isn't garbage, but it is stuff that needs to get off those surfaces and into it's proper place. 

I have learned over the years that reducing clutter reduces my stress.  I am far from the kind of person that finds peace and serenity in scrubbing a bathroom or vacuuming the house every night before bed, but I know I tense up if I walk into a room and am struck by how much crap is piled up and stuffed into every visible nook and cranny.  I also know I am much more likely to cook the kind of food I want to eat, if can actually have a kitchen counter to work on.  I have also learned that I am completely on my own in my quest against the clutter demon in my home. 

In an effort to combat this demon, I have periodically chosen a room, or a given flat surface, and cleared it off.  I put things away, I donate things, I reshelve books, I shred unnecessary papers, you get the idea.  I clear it and clean it.  And I hope every time that others in my home will respect that clean surface and keep it clean, so I can move on to the next area.  Never happens.  The clutter is back within days.  Yes, sometimes I contribute (one particular table next to my chair is frequently where the odd-sock-pile ends up, as I fold laundry), but most of the time when I clean off a surface, it is of items I have never touched. 

Just in writing this, I have found my goal for 2014 - identifying and declaring my personal "no clutter zones" in the house and challenging myself to keep those areas clear instead of trying to take on the whole house.  Like many things, perhaps if nothing else finding my own sanity in the midst of this clutter will set a good example for my kids. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dear Universe:

My goal for 2013 was patience.  I needed to cede control for the things that were not mine to direct, because the anger and resentment were building.  Patience has been hard.  Ceding control was quite a process since it took me nearly all year to realize that it was my own failure to cede control that was making myself and everyone around me miserable and the resentment was like lava bubbling inside me and pouring out in waves on the people closest to me.  I finally opened my eyes and realized what was happening, promptly took some self-care action, and have made massive improvements in my mood and my relationships since then.

I feel like I'm really trying.  And Universe, I thank you for that.  I really do.  Today I am saying thank you, as I do most days, and I am also acknowledging that we really need some guidance in the coming days.  There is a person in my life that desperately needs a sign or a road map or a door or window opening and I am asking for something along those lines.  I can't do anything to make this happen so I have been trusting that the right thing will come, but we're reaching a critical time and just really am asking for some little thing to let us know that we're going to be OK.  I'd really appreciate it.

Love, Sarah

Friday, November 22, 2013

Life Patterns

Do you ever have one of those times where you are driving along in your car and thinking about something in your past, or wondering about something in your life, and all of a sudden you see in vivid technicolor that you are just repeating a pattern that can trace back your whole life?  Happens to me all the time - I am way too introspective when I drive, perhaps - and it happpened most recently this morning.

I listen to the oldies station on the radio driving to work, if I turn the radio on.  The song "I Will Follow Him" came on (you know the one - "I will follow him ... follow him wherever he may go ... and so on).  I'm not exactly sure why I turned that concept on myself, but all of a sudden I realized that I have latched on as a follower in my personal life and then my work life so many times!  First, I suppose, was just assuming my dad knew everything and just blindly following his lead and spouting his opinions etc.  And I thought that was the type of man I wanted to marry as well - one who would just lead and bring me along.  And then I got my first FT job and was an admin assistant and found I was really good at it.  I can assist and support higher ups and make them look really good.  But it wasn't enough for me.  And continuing to just recite the opinions of my father wasn't working for me either.  And who is surprised to hear that my search for a man to take over my life and lead was interpreted as being a bit needy and desperate?  Talk about a pattern that needed to be disrupted! 

Took me until midway through college to have the first real instance of questioning whether my dad really was right about everything in the world (my first boyfriend asked me probably more than once "is that your opinion or your dad's?"). Took me until my late twenties to realize I should strive for a job further up the food chain, where I had more responsibility than just support staff.  Took me until my thirties to realize these same concepts applied to my search for a mate, and probably to my mid forties and now late forties when I'm now actively trying to accept that my husband isn't solely responsible for my happiness in life. 

What a journey this has been, and I'm laughing a bit as I write this because anyone who knows me now would never believe the person I was twenty-five years ago when I hardly had an independent opinion in my brain.  I am clearly making up for that lost time now and I would say that I am teaching my children from birth to think for themselves - I can't count the number of times I have said "you don't have to agree with me, what do you think?" to my ten year old.  I hope my kids grow up knowing the world is available to them and that they are not expected (or required) to follow anyone's path but their own. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013


My goal for 2013 was to be patient.  To allow my path to unfold before me and to trust that it would make itself known to me in good time.  I am not a patient person.  I struggled with feeling like I needed to solve things, make things happen, push ... but I really did resist these urges and tried to just wait and keep my eyes open.

Things have been moving forward in the last couple months.  It feels good to have gotten started.  Yesterday, this excerpt from Melody Beattie's "The Language of Letting Go" appeared in my daily thoughts email, and I loved it.  Take a moment and a deep breath and enjoy! 

Going Easy

Go easy. You may have to push forward, but you don't have to push so hard. Go in gentleness, go in peace.

Do not be in so much of a hurry. At no day, no hour, no time are you required to do more than you can do in peace. Frantic behaviors and urgency are not the foundation for our new way of life.

Do not be in too much of a hurry to begin. Begin, but do not force the beginning if it is not time. Beginnings will arrive soon enough.

Enjoy and relish middles, the heart of the matter.

Do not be in too much of a hurry to finish. You may be almost done, but enjoy the final moments. Give yourself fully to those moments so that you may give and get all there is.

Let the pace flow naturally. Move forward. Start. Keep moving forward. Do it gently, though. Do it in peace. Cherish each moment.

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Choose Happiness.

2013 has been a rough year for me - lots of angst and internal struggle.  I had a long talk with myself this weekend and made one conscious decision:  I Choose Happiness.  There is much in my life that I cannot change and I have to find a way to avoid sinking into the bog of resentment.  I am feeling very empowered by the self-care I have undertaken in the past couple months and I can envision even more as life unfolds, which gives me hope and a feeling of freedom from some 'monkey-chatter' that has plagued me for a long time.  At the end of the day, I have miles and miles of entries on my gratitude list and my attitude about my life is a choice.  I can muck around with what is fair or equitable or grumble about what I believe is owed to me, or I can choose to be filled with gratitude and joy for what I have.  I am saying it now and mean this as a true commitment to my future:  I Choose Happiness.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Magnetic people

What is it about some people that makes them draw other people toward them?  We've all known someone like that, and I have had the pleasure to know a few and for those that are no longer regularly in my life, I still think of them fondly and with a smile.  And I still marvel at how these people can walk into anywhere and immediately, and magically, draw people to them and leave others smiling and feeling warm, just from crossing paths.  I have tried to mimic what I've seen them do - really look at people, smile at everyone, and say the nice things that sometimes pop into my mind ("I love your socks!" was the last one that comes to mind - said to a woman at yoga who came in with these gorgeous wild colored wool socks on as leg warmers).  I think doing this shares some warmth and makes people smile, even just for a moment, but I have never found the magic that actually draws people to me.  But I love doing the little things like holding a door or reaching for something on a high shelf for someone at the grocery store who is stretching or commenting with a smile to a stranger.

I have been thinking a lot lately about one of my friends, Lisa.  She was the most magnetic of the magnetic people I've ever known.  After I moved away, she was planning a globe-hopping travel adventure and was kind enough to send me photographs of her journey.  Keep in mind this was in the early years before everyone had email and before wi-fi allowed for global internet access.  I followed her journey hungrily, since I was not raised with enough adventure in my soul to ever even conceive of doing such a thing.  I think we crossed paths once after that trip and had lunch, because I remember hearing about her travels in person.  But that was about the last I heard from Lisa.  I googled her some years ago and was thrilled to discover that she was involved with a national women's white water rafting team ... clearly her adventures continued!  But I never found an address - email or otherwise - to write to her.

And then in early  September, I googled her again.  I was scrolling around through various 'hits' when I happened to look at the "google images".  And there she was - huge smile and wild hair.  The photo was from a few years ago in New Zealand!  So I searched a little narrower and found another photo on a web page for a yoga studio in New Zealand - there was no face, but it was a woman sitting with her head thrown back laughing.  I didn't need a face to recognize my friend.  There were tears in my eyes by that point.  So then I searched a little narrower, found a web site for a yoga studio back in the U.S., advertising a yoga retreat with my friend Lisa as the chef (she was always a fantastic cook!).  I actually immediately clicks on the "register" button and having not done a lick of yoga in my life, I was ready to get a plane - that's how strong a presence she was in my life - only to realize the retreat had already occurred after Labor Day weekend.  But there were multiple photos of my friend - smiling and looking gorgeous and I sat there clicking on the photo galleries, smiling and laughing and  wiping tears.  I found "my" Lisa!

I did send an email and had two emails back from each of the two studio owners, saying they'd pass along my greetings to Lisa.  I hoped I would hear back from her but, to date, have not.  And that makes me sad but at the same time, I am just so happy that her adventures continue and that she is happy and well and no doubt bringing joy to the people around her.

There were many players in the process it took to get me onto my yoga mat, but truly seeing Lisa again - even online - was the final straw.  Well, the final straw was finding a yoga studio that had a class schedule I could manage as well and that wasn't terrifying (or too terrifying) but that was really more of a technical hurdle to overcome.  I had been going up the 'I think I can, I think I can, I think I can' hill towards it for a long time and Lisa, I think, was the final push to crest the hill, let go, and holler wheeeeeeeeeee! even as my rational brain was shrieking in terror.  That was what Lisa gave to me - we had a couple adventures where I had to consciously set my rational brain aside and just let go and enjoy the ride.

I love you Lisa, and I thank you sincerely for the memories and your effect on my life.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Body Image

Contradictory as usual, it has occurred to me that I have what I think is maybe a unique body image.  I have read lots of things over the years about the poor folks suffering with eating disorders, who despite looking to the rest of us like a concentration camp inmate, see a fat person when they look at themselves in the mirror.  On the other hand, we also know there are lots of people who have not-perfect bodies who carry themselves with the pride and confidence and even the sex appeal of the hottest supermodel. 

I am somewhere in the middle.

I don't frequently look in the mirror, but when I do I am often slow to recognize myself because the lumpy, doughy body is not what I expect to see.  Instead, I expect to see a lean and strong person, who is relaxed in body and in life.  I recently dubbed that inner vision as my inner athlete.

I may never have that lean and strong athlete physique but that is also not my goal as I enter my second month of yoga practice.  My goal is actually the second half of my inner vision - when I look at myself, I want to see a person who is relaxed in body and in life.  Balanced and at peace.