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.  


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

7 Lessons After 7 Yoga Classes

I started a yoga journey on October 2, 2013.  It seemed that for many months I had been searching for some way to help myself feel better mentally and emotionally.  What I was doing wasn't working and every time I turned around, someone or something was whispering (or hollering) YOGA!  Finally, I found myself walking in the door of a local yoga studio, having paid for a month's unlimited class membership.  I was terrified and excited. Intimidated and proud.

It was beginners class - beginners HOT yoga.  I do not like heat.  I have not enjoyed the minimal experience I'd had with yoga to date.  I was (and still am) terrifically out of shape.  But I introduced myself to the owner/instructor, 'fessed up to my beginner status (like that wasn't going to be obvious in the first five minutes), and did what I have been dreaming of doing without even knowing what I was dreaming of - turned inside myself, surrendered my head and my body to the process, and let my focus remain on what was happening on my mat for that hour.  And the heat was glorious.

First lesson - I have been longing to do something just for myself, that honors my physical self in this moment, as the miraculous gift it is.  I want to say "lesson learned" but this is very much a work in progress - remaining grateful for my body as it is right this minute.

I did four beginner's classes to start.  I learned that some days things are really hard or even impossible and another day they might not be so hard.  I learned that I can fall out of a pose and shake it out and try to go right back into it.  I learned that I can go through an entire class and really have no idea who else is in the room with me.  And there I am in my yoga capris and tank top (it is just too hot for anything else), just being.  Beautiful lesson two.

Next was the regular class - at 5:15 a.m. class.  If I hope to make this a regular part of my life, it has to stay out of the way of my time with my kids, so I learned that if I go at 5:15 a.m., I am home just after the kids' alarm clock goes off for school and can jump right into the morning routine.  And I did OK with the regular, non-beginner class too - so a success all the way around.

Then, since I had a few days off, I decided to try some other class offerings.  The first was High Intensity Interval Training yoga.  Oh my hannah.  I have a nagging tendinitis in my Achilles tendon which flared up on about jumping jack number 5 and had me hobbling for 2 days afterward.  And many of the interval activities were way beyond my strength level, so I was modifying as we went along and felt very unparticipatory.  But my heart rate was up and I was working hard, so that was when lesson three lasered into focus - it is not a competition, with yourself or anyone else, it is about doing your best and honoring your strength, however it manifests itself on a given day.

Lesson four - when you are aching and tired and sore, don't let yourself skip yoga.  It will make you feel better.  That was the 5:15a class the morning after HIIT.

Candlelight flow yoga was Sunday night.  I so wanted to find a peaceful end to the weekend/start to the new week.  This was the largest class I've attended and with the extra bodies, including a couple men for the first time, I had the experience of trying to do a downward facing dog (I'm tall, so have to have my hands and face close to the end of my mat on one end, in order for my feet to have all the way to the other end of the mat) with the feet of my neighbor passing in front of my face.  Disconcerting.  Didn't help that she was a bit of a "flailer".  And I know that the proper breathing means bringing "texture and sound" to our exhales, but the grunting and groaning of one of the men was becoming very annoying.  And then lesson five came to me - remember back to lesson one about focusing on myself and what is happening on my own mat?  Yeah, lesson five was that I have to free myself of being impacted by what is happening on other mats in the room and not letting that create friction for me. 

This morning I went back for 5:15a class.  I was tired and stiff and have a twinge in my back and a sore knee.  Physically, class didn't go well for me at all.  I couldn't hold much of any pose.  But I kept at it and got through it and glad that I was there.  Lesson six - loving myself and honoring myself, even when I am imperfect and life doesn't go the way I want it to.  I also gave myself a pat on the back for even showing up when I am so achey and tired, and to keep at it even when it is hard.  And the heat was lovely.

It is becoming apparent to me (here's lesson seven) that the old mantra of learning of love yourself is one of those phrases that is so easy to say and even claim, but not so easy to actually practice and own.  But I'm doing it.  My "intentions" for yoga include concepts like: I am not invisible.  I am valuable.  I am a miracle.  I am grateful for the person I am, right here and right now.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

New addition to the family...

Any who have read my blog from the beginning will recall that Sean and I were seriously considering adopting another child.  Due to some personal circumstances, we found we wouldn't be able to proceed until June 2013, so it kind of went on the back burner for a while.  And in that time I realized a few things.

First, I had to accept that I was wholly overwhelmed with my life as it is right now.  My girls are starting to have more and more outside activities, my younger daughter is on the ASD spectrum which results in some real struggles for all of us, and the reality is that any additional stress, I might just explode. And additional stress came last summer, in the form of a huge work shift.  One of my co-workers left for another job and his entire case load ended up on my desk.  There was good in that, and I did well with it, but it left me with absolutely no emotional reservoir.

I don't like to admit the work "overwhelmed" ever has any bearing on my life.  I take great personal pride in being able to get through anything - one of my huge "walls" is to never let anyone see me sweat.  Good Germanic and Scandahoovian martyrdom and stiff upper lip b.s. and all that, you know.  It's bred into me.  But I did admit it ultimately to myself this time. 

And so the dream of adopting a child is over.  Those children need homes, and I greatly admire those who provide the homes and the amazing care that these kids need to deal with their pasts and their futures, but my children had dibs on me first and my obligation to them does not allow me to dilute myself beyond my limits.  I'd love to think I could do it all but that is not being honest with myself.  On a happier note, once I did figure it out, it took a lot of pressure off.  There is a certain amount of deep breathing that comes with accepting yourself as you are, you know? 

And our family then took a leap:  in October we adopted a second dog.  I have never had a second dog in my life, so that was an interesting prospect.  The dog we adopted, Copper, is a greyhound, rescued from a racetrack breeding farm in Kansas.  He must have been slow or something, because he never made it to the track, which is maybe a good things for him (conditions at the track are worse than those at the farms).  The thing about these rescued greyhounds is that they know nothing of family life, living in a house, or floors other than dirt and concrete.  Copper lived with thousands of other hounds in outdoor pens and kennels.  He was terrified by the door to our house and cars and mailboxes, we had to teach him to walk up and down stairs, and he still (3 months later) is spooked by new people, loud noises and shadows on the walls.  But he is sweet and sometimes playful and we have high hopes that he will continue to socialize and develop his personality.  Thankfully, he and Lucky took to each other right off.

We are a well balanced household now - 2 adults, 2 kids, 2 cats, 2 dogs; 4 males, 4 females.  I hope we are also on our way to balancing everyone's emotional needs, activities, and obligations - or at least I think we are and I'm optimistic.