Chaos without, chaos within

My husband is redoing our whole kitchen.  Yay!  I am so excited to get rid of our ugly cabinets and counter tops and cracked tile floor and replace them with something pretty. It has been the one room I have never liked, and the room that is central to our home. Aesthetics are important to me.

I am jumping for joy inside!

Actually, I am not.

I am freaking out inside.

I know the chaos of the kitchen is very temporary. It’ll be done in a matter of weeks. Or months.  My husband is enjoying the challenge, and he is great about cleaning up the mess as best he can at the end of each day.

He contains the chaos. That is a beautiful thing.

20161002_151416-2But there are some parts of it, he just cannot help. Like the table needing to be put into the living room. And some of the old cabinets needing to be in the middle of the kitchen floor. Oh, and the floor being gone.

There is stuff to do in the kitchen. Like cook. And eat. There are only so many times we can go out to eat in a week. Or a day.

At least my writing room is in our basement.  I get to come down here and deny the mess that is upstairs, until I need to go upstairs. Which is pretty often.

Today has been the turning point, from how fun it is to discuss what color cabinets to buy to can we please just get whatever ones will get here the quickest? 

But this really is not just about me and my kitchen. That’s lame.

It’s about inner and outer chaos. I’ve got both right now and I suspect it may be somewhat universal. I just cannot be that unique. I think that when our outer surroundings are  too messy or too unfinished or too scattered, that is how we all feel inside as well, at least to some extent. 

I am a four year old again, with the rug…ahh tile…pulled out from under me.

I am throwing my arms up at everything now.

Where is my discipline? Where is my productivity? My peace? What is happening to me?

I did not shower this morning. I never don’t shower. I sometimes shower twice a day. I shower before I exercise for crying out loud.

But not today. Why bother?

Today I rolled out of bed and pulled on blue leggings from my pajama drawer. Bright blue leggings. And I went out in them.

I skipped exercising.

I skipped working on my book even though I’d been on a roll for weeks of focusing on it daily.

And it’s all I can do to keep myself from buying donuts for dinner.

My id is out in full force.

I am floundering. I am messy. I am scattered.

Hey, what do you know, I match my kitchen!

Chaos without, chaos within.

I’m amazed I am even writing, because I’ve been otherwise unproductive today.  And I’ve already got a Netflix movie picked out for tonight because why even consider being productive this evening? Today is a lost cause.

The whole week too.

I am afraid I might be downward spiraling.

If God is next to cleanliness, then kitchen chaos is the devil.

The struggle is real.

And though my reaction may sound extreme, I am talking wanting donuts and slacking off here. A little disordered thinking perhaps, but not drugs or other illegal activity. Not even extreme anxiety. But I am thinking of those poor souls who are struggling with those things.

For those people who are in total inner chaos, wrap them in a warm hug.

And for the love of all that is holy, someone please help them clean up their environment. I swear to God it will help. I swear on my kitchen sink.

Which is currently on the floor.

I swear on every marble counter top, on every farmer’s sink and every style cabinet there is. Just clean up the mess. Clear the decks. Bring order and simplicity to the places you dwell in. Then all the angels and saints will shine down upon you, brighter than the brightest kitchen appliance, and brighter than the  brightest blue legging, that ever was or ever will be.

Amen.

 

 

 

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Clearing a path for the good stuff

If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves. You can gain more control over your life by paying closer attention to the little things.  –Emily Dickinson

What are the little things?

Drinking water.

Getting enough sleep.

Decluttering.

Eating a healthy meal.

Keeping only what you love.

Breathing deeply.

Exercising.

Replacing the button.

Cleaning out the fridge.

Hanging the picture.

Buying the stamps.

Thinking the good thought.

Doing the paperwork.

Planting the vegetables.

Saying the kind word.

Donating the stuff.

Pausing.

 What are the big things?

Inspiration.

Clarity.

Insight.

Healing.

Hope.

Decision.

Peace.

Fulfillment.

Joy.

Freedom.

Success.

Love.

Creativity.

Truth.

Ideas.

Courage.

How does taking care of the little things lead to the big things?

Everything in this entire universe is made up of energy. Food, thoughts, stuff, etc.  This is not a new phenomenon. This is not a New Age theory or an unscientific guess. This has been true for all of eternity.

Einstein reported that “..both the physical plane of our reality of matter and the abstract reality of our mind are made up of energy patterns.”  Every cell, thing, thought, word and morsel of food has a vibrational frequency.

There is positive energy and negative energy and neutral energy. All of it is easy to decipher. How do you feel after eating something? Doing something? Saying something? Thinking something? Being in a particular environment? What adds to your energy, heightens your vibration, and what takes away from it?

Doing the small things cleans up your energy, raising it in order to attract the energy of the the  bigger things. Like attracts like.  Doing the small things creates a magnet for the bigger things. It opens up a pathway. It unblocks us and sets us free to discover our limitlessness.

How simple is that? Just do the small things. One by one. Day by day. Moment by moment.

Clear a path to the big things. You can feel it.

Making room for the big stuff.

Simplifying = getting sh*t done

20151130_124530Simplifying is not for nothing, folks.

Simplifying means getting sh*t done.

It means you have more time and space and freedom to spend on what is important to you.

Whether you simplify your diet, your routine, your home or your schedule, you will reap the rewards.

And here is my favorite reward:

Creative projects coming to fruition! 

I am in the process of editing my book. I love this part. It is a lot of work, but I get to apply my love for organizing to the whole process.  I printed out a hard copy because I find it easier to edit this way. I can spread chapters out across my table, move things around, write notes in red ink and feel the weight of my project, literally. All the pages I see represent not only what I’ve gotten done, but all the things I chose to let go of in order to focus on this.

I’ve made the decision that I will get this book ready for publication, no matter what it takes. That is a good feeling. Not having it out in the world is simply not an option for me. I will spend any amount of time and effort that is required. End of story.

 

Opting for less…ladies first

Every once in a while I like to splurge on the pleasure of reading More Magazine. It’s along the same lines as my frivolous desire for maxi dresses. Not gonna lie, I own five of these dresses, but each one passes Marie Kondo’s test of sparking joy. I’ve stopped looking at new maxi dresses because most of them spark joy in me. I want all the maxi dresses. I notice them everywhere. I compliment strangers on their maxi dresses. I think there is something beautiful yet carefree about them. They are feminine and comfortable. They can be worn with flip flops or sandals. The one piece and unicolor lengthens a body, and they can be worn at any age. It’s one piece, people, no figuring out what goes with what. How simple is that?

But anyway, I digress.

The magazine. This month there is an article called “The Joy of Wanting Less”, written by Susan Gregory Thomas (and now I want to read her memoir, In Spite of Everything, which I have ordered from my library). I never tire of reading or writing or thinking about simplifying. And if my maxi dress fetish is any indication, I could still learn a thing or two about letting go and having less. Here are some highlights from the article:

*Only 3 percent of the world’s children live in the U.S., yet American families purchase 40 percent of the world’s toys. We are toy pigs. I don’t think all these toys are making our kids happier. If we used the sparks joy test I mentioned above, we’d probably own a small fraction of the toys we do. Sure, a few toys will spark joy in kids. But we know what really sparks their joy: playtime. Love. Attention. Joy. Joy sparks joy. Happy parents spark joy. Buried in toys does not spark joy. It sparks overwhelm, for kids and parents alike.

*Experience makes us happier than things do. Quiet time, family time, peace, reading a book, taking a class, traveling, hobbies, pursuing a dream, etc. How we spend our time has a much greater effect on our happiness than what we own does. This is probably not news to anyone, but it’s a nice reminder.

*Across the U.S., more and more women are downsizing. They are shedding possessions, moving into smaller homes or apartments- yes, even women with families.   Why the focus on women? Well, for one thing the article came from a women’s magazine. But in addition, apparently women feel more stressed and burdened by clutter than men do. There are theories on why, and I could name a few, but in the end, decluttering benefits both men and women. It seems that women, though, are the ones taking initiative to act on their desire for less.

20140721_104248Nothing sparks the desire to simplify more than the feeling of overwhelm or of not having enough time. Who doesn’t wish for more time, nearly every day?  Everything we do replaces something else that we cannot do at the same time.  We have the ability to tune in and figure out what feels like an intrusion, a drain on our life’s energy.  Do we want to clean two showers instead of one? Do we want to own things that require maintenance if they don’t bring us joy? Do we want to hang on to outdated friendships or be indiscriminate with new ones? Do we really want an invitation, every month, to baptisms and graduation parties? I don’t. Do the social engagements on our calendar spark joy?

These are all questions that we get to ask ourselves if we want to.  And women are asking them, more than ever.

Speaking of less, I love Ernest Hemingway’s quote: Don’t confuse movement with action (similar to don’t confuse activity with progress). We can run around exerting energy our whole lives, but what are moving towards? What are we gaining? What are the results? Our time and energy are such valuable resources (money is too, but that’s a whole different blog post). They always run out. What are we spending them on?

Alas I am reminded myself, I have more than enough stuff. I surely have more than enough maxi dresses. I will always want more time. I want to be a time hoarder, to gather it up and to remember to breathe in the moments and just be where I am. But there is always the releasing, letting go of the moment, the minutes, the hours, and knowing we are left with just a little bit less.

The Stories We Tell

20150421_193254I have so many things I want to write about, including spring cleaning. I am stubbornly waiting until the weather actually turns spring-like so that I can open the windows and actually call it spring cleaning. Today we are due to get some hail, (yes, hail!)so I continue to walk across my sticky kitchen floor and watch the dust balls grow.

I also want to write about the time I wrote an article on assignment for a magazine. It was about a vision quest in suburbia. Talk about an oxymoron. I remembered the assignment while driving home from writing group last week, after discussing freelance writing. Oh, and there was that, I thought. I’d forgotten about it. And now I want to write about it because it was so bizarre that I have to dust it off and churn the experience into a new story.

And I want to write about writer’s block and how Julia Cameron, author of the Artist’s Way, rescues many writers from this misery. She reminds us, when words become as elusive as water in the dessert, to not call it laziness. Call it fear.

Thank you, Julia Cameron, for reminding us of this when we are blocked. We are not losers! she is telling us.  We are cowards. Believe it or not, this really does help.

I want to write about these things and more, and I will, but I am currently preoccupied with the Moth open mic story telling. I first wrote about my Moth Story Slam adventure in an earlier post here:  https://musingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/the-moth-story-slam-live-storytelling/

Happily, I sold my winning Moth story to an online magazine and am now working on lengthening it a bit, at the editor’s request. They will own exclusive rights for six months, and after that  I can do what I want with it-submit to other publications, blog, etc.

I am still waiting on the date for the Moth Grand Slam where I will compete with ten other story tellers. I think it will be over the summer and I can hardly wait!

In the meantime, I plan to perform again this week at another story slam just for practice, so I am preparing for that, right down to picking out my mothfit

A mothfit is what I now call the outfit I wear to these things.  A small detail, I know, but I reason that it requires at least a little thought.  It should be authentic, and not pretentious. Comfortable, but not frumpy.  Chic, but not shabby.

So after this week, with the story revisions and the Moth Story Slam behind me , I will be free to focus on other writing again.

And it would be great if this coincided with spring making her grand entrance.  Because for me, bogged down by winter’s layers- of clothing, cold, and grime- are dichotomous with writing freely and moving forward, lightly.

Here in New England, we are going to appreciate spring like a blocked writer appreciates fresh words.

When that time comes, I will throw open my windows. I will wipe away any dirt and excess, and clear the way for the sunshine and the muse to come through, light and warming. Because this simplifying thing, it really does work.

What we focus on..

It is day five of no sugar and so far the abstinence thing is working as planned.   If thoughts of sugar come to mind, I release them. I just don’t focus on it, because the option of having any is off the table, so it consumes exactly none of my energy. I did dream about desserts though, as in a vivid- feature- movie of decadent options, but when daylight came, it was steel cut oatmeal for this girl. And I have plenty of delicious and healthy options to be giddy about that don’t involve sweets (cacao flavored green smoothies! caprese salads!  Thai food!)

Focusing on what I do want in my life, rather than what I don’t want, always works best.

I know the whole “what you focus on expands” can sound so new-agey and like a modern day tagline, but really it is quantum physics and ancient wisdom and it just works this way whether we care that it does or not. So it behooves us to care.

Except when it comes to the most impersonal things such as weather. I don’t particularly want snow, but I know it’ll keep coming, like it does each winter, like it or not. So I’ve decided this year I just won’t focus on how much I don’t like the cold. I’ll dress for it and I’ll notice how the sun turns the tree branches into glistening silver beams after a snowfall. I won’t exactly embrace it, but I’ll surrender to it. My aim is to  accept it without fuss. After all, I choose to live in New England, so put up or get out, right?

indexI was home alone during the last snowfall, and although my husband had arranged to have someone come do the snow blowing for me, but I simply decided I was no longer afraid of the damn contraption and cleared the driveway myself. And this time I did not shred the buried newspaper into five billion tiny pieces, expelling them across the yard and out into street, causing a news storm. This time was better. The snow blower, for me, was emblematic of making peace with winter. I believed the task was very doable, and so it was.

Which is why, as I am pouring so much time and energy into completing my book, which is a slower and more difficult process than I ever imagined, I cannot, will not,  give too much focus to the thought   Please don’t let me write a book that sucks.

Instead I invite the thought : I am willing to put in all the time and effort required to make this as good as it can be.

Better yet, I just write.

I perplex myself with how I can get so happy over such small things as coconut oil and amazon prime, and yet still want such big things  like a best seller of course. But okay, I will settle for just a reasonably successful book that resonates with enough readers as to consider it worthwhile.

Ah well, all of life is both risky and harmless, so why should this be any different? It feels big and at the same time  just a blip in the big scheme of the universe, so carry on.

And while busy churning thoughts into words that people may or may not ever read, I give little thought to politics these days, or even news for that matter, shredded paper aside. I have never been overly focused on politics and I take in only as much news as I need in order to know what’s going on in the world, and to form an opinion. Lately, though, I am even sick of my own opinion. Focusing on it only leaves me frustrated or dissatisfied. I’d  rather create something I can add to the world, however meagerly, than spin all the stuff that I have no control over around in my head until I end up right back where I started.

Simplifying has brought me clarity.  Sugar was probably the last junk I needed to clear out of my life. Actually, no, I’m sure something else will reveal itself in time, likely a habit or mindset or something else that I awaken to that leaves me wondering how could I have thought that? Or why do I do that?

In the meantime, rather than focusing on what I don’t like or want, I try to keep asking the right questions. What do I want? What would work best? Then I put my focus there, my energy there, and watch it grow.

Farewell my sweets

It has been over a year since I wrote about my sugar habit in this post: https://musingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/sweet-surrender/

Not much has changed. You could say I’m mindful about consuming sugar, but really I’m just aware of how addicted I am. No matter how much I engage in healthy habits, this sugar thing has got me beat. I find it easy to embrace a healthy lifestyle in all other areas but this one. It is the stubborn habit that has followed me around my entire life.

But it’s a new year and never too late for change. Recently, I read Gretchen Rubin’s article on habits:

http://www.gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2012/10/back-by-popular-demand-are-you-an-abstainer-or-a-moderator/

She proposes that when it comes to managing indulgences, there are abstainers and there are moderators, and life is easier if we identify which one we are. I want to be a moderator. That sounds so healthy. So moderate. Everything in moderation, right? But alas, I am not a moderator. Not when it comes to sugar.

With sugar, I want what I want. One means two means three. There is no saving dessert for later or tomorrow, because if it’s there, I’m going to have it. Now. And if I have it one day, I must have it the next.

I tried the eating sweets only on special occasions idea of moderating, and I failed. Every occasion became special. Not just birthdays and holidays, which by the way, seem to come around an awful lot. But it was also special when my husband brought home Ben & Jerry’s from the grocery store. And it was special if we found ourselves near a bakery where we could get cannolis. And it was special when it was the weekend or the kids were home or we’re out to dinner or…

You see how that goes?

And there was the pre-sliced cheesecake I bought from Trader Joe’s and told myself I’d save  for Thanksgiving. When my husband asked if we could perhaps break into the cheesecake before the holiday, I was adamant. No, of course we can’t! Then I fessed up. We can’t because I’ve already sampled two pieces. If anyone was going to sample the cheesecake, it had to me. Obviously.  I was the sugar addict after all.

Then there was Christmas day when I walked into my parents’ house and headed straight to their freezer where I knew they stored the whoopie pies. I helped myself to the over- sized dessert before anyone had even begun the meal. It was like I was five years old again, but it was less cute now.

But recently, I think I hit rock bottom. On a mini-road trip with one of my daughters, we left the Norman Rockwell museum and were back on the road. My daughter decided she wanted an ice cream cone, and with limited choices nearby, would settle for a McDonald’s vanilla cone.

She is a person who can indulge in sweets moderately, so of course I obliged. Once I placed her order in the drive thru, I drove to the second window to pay. I was happy with myself that I had opted to abstain from the dessert. This was a rare event: being in the presence of someone else eating ice cream and not having any. Actually, it had never happened before.

It was then that I remembered the Mcflurry- that soft serve ice cream with the candy mixed in. I wanted one. I began my internal battle: to have or not to have, my superego and my id wrestling it out right there in the drive thru. We’d already ordered. The server handed me my daughter’s cone. It was time to pay and leave. I asked her to add a Mcflurry to our order. Seeming a bit annoyed, understandably, she said okay and walked away.

Then an alarm went off. A loud, ear piercing alarm sent the employees scurrying around inside. I should have left. Surely they were facing a bit of a crisis, maybe even a fire. For all I knew, they were being held by gun point at the cash register. Clearly, it was time to move on from the Mcflurry. But no, I wanted it dammit. I waited. And waited.

Eventually the girl reappeared, flustered and holding my sugar fix. I tried to pay her and she waved me away. Just go.

My daughter was in hysterics, laughing. At least I had amused someone.

Am I out of control ?

Then I remembered the gum.

Many years ago I was chewing a piece of sugarless gum when I felt a filling loosen in my mouth. It scared me and I instantly spat the gum out. I never chewed gum again. Plain and simple, I simply decided in that moment that I would not chew gum. I feared my filling would come out and it just didn’t seem worth it. I’ve never questioned it or even reassessed the choice. I just am someone who does not chew gum now. Period.

It was easy. It’s only gum, after all. I had no real attachment to gum.

But my point is this: I am an abstainer when it comes to something I think is not good for me. A clean break frees me from the decision, the attempts at moderating, the assessing  how much and when and where. If I think it might do me harm, I am better off just taking it off the table.

I think forty-something years of attempting to be a moderator of sugar consumption is enough time. I surrender. My body is talking to me and my mind is trying every which way to reason and bargain and promise. But alas, my body wins. I must say no.

Perhaps someday I will be able to moderate sugar.  Maybe I will become one of those people who can take two bites of cheesecake and then declare that it is too rich to have any more. (In the words of my sister, anyone who thinks cheesecake is filling hasn’t seen me eat cheesecake).

But for now at least, I am an abstainer. It is time to admit this and try it on for size. I am changing my belief about myself. I used to be someone who ate sugar regularly, and the more I had, the more I wanted.

Now, only now, I am someone who doesn’t eat sweets.

No dessert for me, thank you. I don’t eat dessert.

I hardly recognize those words. I’ve never said them before. Change is good.

Some say sugar is every bit as addictive as cocaine, and heroin. I know there are going to be moments when I will want to sell my soul for a brownie. But eventually, it will pass.

My body will thank me. My mind will thank me. Life will be sweeter without the burden of this sugar habit, this sweet poison that has followed me around relentlessly. Alas, I will be free.

My name is Dana. And I don’t eat sugar anymore. medium_7774382226End of story  .