4 Areas to Clean up for the New Year

#1 Car: Your car symbolizes where you are going in life. Are you moving forward and navigating from one stage to another? Clean out any clutter in your car to invite clarity and overcome stagnation. You are in the driver’s seat; make it a good ride.

#2 Bedroom: Pick and choose what you allow in this room. This should be a sacred space of rejuvenation and intimacy. Clothes strewn about, a television in the room, and dust or clutter can all detract significantly from the atmosphere. Warm colors, soy candles, clean sheets and an organized closet can transform a bedroom. It will feel different, better. This is the one place you can truly count on being alone or with your partner. Don’t give it less attention than you’d give any other room. In fact, give it more.

#3 Bathroom: A bathroom should be clean with hints of vitality: plants, a splash of color, simplicity. Reconsider those fuzzy toilet covers that are one more thing to launder, as well as any overflow of toiletries. Get rid of unnecessary makeup items; decide what looks best on you and toss the rest. It’s a relief to simplify the options. For example, Clinique Black Honey lipstick looks good on everyone, and if you want a cheaper option, the Revlon equivalent is Fig Jam. Maybe there is one color of eye shadow that looks best on you-why hold on to the others?20141228_140338(0)

#4 Mind: This is perhaps the most difficult space to declutter. Most people are absolutely addicted to thinking. We are constantly telling ourselves stories, critiquing, thinking of the past or the future. But we all can recall moments when we are truly present, in our bodies, and free from the mind chatter. This is pure magic, the elixir of life. Maybe we recognize this state of pure consciousness while meditating, practicing yoga, dancing, running, delving into a mindful hobby, or writing. For some, classical music does the trick. Find whatever it is that tames your monkey mind and do it often!

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Engaging the holidays with a four thing day

Just a couple more days until Christmas, and I’ve been feeling balanced about the whole holiday thing; I’ve got time, I didn’t go overboard on anything and best of all, college kids have fully settled back in for their break (evident both by the extra joy and the extra dishwasher cycles). I’m caught up on most stuff that needs being-caught-up on. Gifts are bought and wrapped, fridge is stocked. There are just a few more things I need to do, and today was supposed to be the day.

So if life is calm and joyful and good, why am I behaving so badly today? Badly as in I seem to have staged a private revolt against finishing up anything that’s left to do or just generally making sensible choices. For example:

Here’s what I should be doing: Going to get a haircut.

Here’s what I did instead: Bought more hair product to revive my curls that really just need a trim, in order to avoid going to get that trim.

Here’s what I should be doing: Picking up the party platter at the grocery store for tomorrow’s pre- holiday visit with my grandmother.

Here’s what I did instead: Roamed the aisles of Whole Foods, sampling their natural lemon body spray and vanilla nutritional shake mix.

Here’s what I should be doing: Finalizing my menu for Christmas brunch.

Here’s what I did instead: Read about what celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis will be eating for Christmas in my Natural Health magazine. Smoky turkey, cranberry soup, and smashed root vegetables, in case you were wondering. And she’s not cooking it.

Here’s what I should be doing: Walking my dog.

Here’s what I did instead: Let my dog run around the yard and then went for a jog myself, while listening to Pandora. While on the jog I took a photo of a sign on the side of the road that said Fixer upper. Must sell fast. The sign included a phone number.

Here’s what I should be doing: Plugging in the lights. It’s getting darkish, despite only being late afternoon.

Here’s what I did instead: Called the number from the sign and left a message. Why would I do that? I’ve no idea except that I was curious. It was a bright yellow sign, urgent! Where was this house? Why were they trying to sell so fast? But in hindsight, maybe the fixer upper is not even a house. It could be anything. A car. A bike. A husband. Why did I assume fixer upper meant a house?

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Here’s what else I should be doing: Cooking the edible gifts I plan to give.

Here’s what I’m doing instead: Eating popcorn.

Maybe this is how I subconsciously engage Christmas; by being a time-wasting slacker for a day or so leading up to it.

Ah well, here is what I should be doing: Jumping off this couch and getting something, anything done. I should be recognizing that Christmas is coming barreling down the road, for Christ’s sake. Literally.

Here’s what I’m doing instead: Feeling glad for having done three things today: exercising, writing, and answering an important email. That’s not much, but I’ve been so busy not stressing about the holidays. Not even a little. Maybe I can count that as accomplishing something. That makes four things. Today was a four thing day. I can live with that.

Merry Christmas!

city tree

Holidays and ordinary days

mountains and Christmas treesWhy do we change our daily routine around the holidays? If we’ve established what works best for us on our ordinary days, then doesn’t altering it for special days make us worse off? How about when we alter it for days upon days in preparation for the holiday?

Often the habits that support our own wellness are the first to go, evident by the emptier yoga classes and the crowded malls this time of year.   It’s a funny phenomenon, really, that we take what many of us consider the most sacred time of year and plunge into self-neglect, often with bells on. And in the name of Jesus Christ.

For better or worse, it doesn’t take much ‘extra’ to make me feel out of sorts. I know I’ve had too much holiday hoopla when I start doing things like searching for my phone while I am holding it in my hand. Or creating a shopping list and then promptly losing it. My mind does not do the two- places- at- once thing well, and frankly I don’t even want to.

I don’t want to give up writing for weeks leading up to a holiday. Or even for a few days. Ditto for yoga or jogging or cooking healthy meals or any of the other things that make me happy on ordinary days.

Around the time of my high school prom our History teacher asked the girls why we were making hair appointments for the big event. I assume the way you wear your hair every day is the way you think it looks best, so why change it for prom? he asked.  I thought he had a good point which I guess is why I still remember his statement so many years later. There was something just a little relevant to life here, not just to proms and hairdos.

I enjoy the holidays so much more when I don’t allow them to take over my life, and in particular, my life style. Holidays are fun, but I like ordinary days. My dopamine levels are doing just great on ordinary days, thank you. I’m not really looking for a shot of wow.  I’d rather push my limits in a completely different area of life.

What if everyone leaned into the holidays only as far as they found enjoyable and no more? It’s not always an easy task, identifying your ideal level of holiday stimulation and drawing the line there. It has a lot to do with temperament and personal preference, and maybe a dozen other things. I think it’s worth figuring out for ourselves though, when to shake things up- and when the ordinary hairdo is just right.

Midlife and Miracles

I’ve decided to begin my New Year’s resolutions early this year. The idea of a fresh year and new possibilities thrills me each and every January. What I really love about this time are the miracles we get to create. What better month to prepare for miracles than December?

Miracles are the epitome of Christmas. Sure there is the festivity, the giving and unwrapping; family time and holiday music and the possibility of glistening snow. The joy! But the spirit of Christmas, at least for me, is also about the magic I feel when I put love and clarity and moving forward, being better, at the top of my agenda. It is an internal thing.

I love mid-life for the opportunities that come with the wisdom of hindsight and experience. I like the deeper appreciation of time that is cultivated when you realize it is not endless. I love this stage of life for the self-knowledge; when you finally really know yourself- strengths, weaknesses, desires and aversions, you are better able to create an increasingly authentic life.

It becomes so obvious that choices are being made continuously, in every moment, and that self-effacy is a damn good path to personal freedom. I mean, when we look at where we are today, though there were some things out of our control, don’t we mostly recognize a series of choices that brought us here?

Once we’re at midlife, there is no excuse for our choices to be shots in the dark. The consequence to each and every one, big and small, is a lot clearer in the light of experience.

So I’m creating my list of resolutions, or goals, or call- them-what- you- will, early. I want to have built up some momentum by the time Christmas is here, so that the great spirit of the holiday, of life itself, can find an open vessel in me. I want to breathe in the magic, so I’m meeting it halfway. If all goes well, I will be able to greet the first day of January with the confidence that my resolutions are already sticking, that my goals will be met.

I may appear to be doing less this year- less shopping, less baking, maybe even less decorating. But I know what I want, this month and in the year ahead, and it won’t come wrapped or delivered to my doorstop. It’ll be a gift, a miracle, that I invite because I know what I need to do and what I need to not do, and alas I know the difference, without question.

I know which goals or dreams are outdated and which ones are meant for now. With midlife, the ego has shrunk enough to learn from mistakes while the heart has swelled enough to forgive them. If we are good this year, whatever that means for us, we really will get what we want. I believe that. It probably won’t be easy. In fact, it may be very difficult, depending on what it is.

So Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Heck, Happy almost New Year. Soon we will have 365 new days of new moments, each one full of potential. Here’s to midlife and to miracles. They are one and the same.