Cars and keeping the journey light

Cars have long been a universal theme explored in literary works such as The Outsiders. Do you remember the two groups of teen rivals, the Socials and the greasers? The Socs had cars which represented power, protection and mobility, while the greasers had to travel on foot and were therefore much more vulnerable.

stock-photo-30594346-hands-of-driver-on-the-steering-wheelAnd who can’t relate to feeling vulnerable when our car doesn’t start up, or it stalls on the side of the road? Maybe this is a distant memory of our younger years when we had less control over our lives, or perhaps it happened yesterday. We’ve got somewhere to go and this is our mode of transportation. To lose it is unnerving.

Or how about the elderly driver who has to give up driving altogether? This denotes a loss of freedom and independence. How could it not? They’ve crossed over to having to depend on others to move them from one place to another.

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Dreams of cars symbolize how much control you have over your own life. Are you in the driver’s seat or are you along for the ride as a passenger? Do you know how to navigate from one place, or stage, to the next? Or are you lost?

And just like any other area of life, clutter in a car can take an emotional toll. It’s restricting, slows us down, and in the case of a moving vehicle, can even be unsafe.

Cleaning a car is a simple and symbolic way to take charge of our lives. It’s so much more pleasant to take the journey free of clutter and crumbs. Cleaning out one’s car is a step towards traveling with mental clarity and space. It is moving forward with both hands on the wheel, free of the stuff that bogs us down.stock-photo-36568830-driving-on-an-empty-road-towards-the-setting-sun

Extreme decluttering

Cleaning consultant and author Marie Kondo has sold over two million copies of her book, The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.  She has a three month waiting list for her services and never has repeat clients; when they use her reliable methods, they only have to do it once.  And as soon as people uncover the joy and shift in mindset that living clutter free allows, they typically develop a strong desire to maintain their more minimalist lifestyle.  Tidying is just a tool in moving forward in the rest of your life, but once you begin to use the tool “you are resetting your life”, explains Konda. medium_2541710549

Her book is a fun read and is full of valuable tips and detailed guidance for anyone wanting to try the KonMari Method of simplifying. To gleen the full benefits of her wisdom, I recommend reading the book. But for those who are just curious about  what some of her significant methods are, here is my understanding of the four big ones:

* Do your simplifying all at once.  Attempting to declutter a little at a time just doesn’t work well for most people; you won’t see any immediate results when doing it little by little, and therefore you won’t gain any momentum  Besides, it could take you a lifetime. Think of simplifying as an exciting event, and tackle it all at once. Yup, when you’re ready, jump in and go. When you do it this way, you’ll be feeling the magic in no time. You’ll want to keep going.

*Go through items by category, not by rooms.  You should only have to go through each category once. So when you’re sorting clothes, for example, collect all of your clothes from the house before going through them. Kondo recommends sorting in the following order: clothing, books, papers, miscellany, then sentimental items (pictures, etc).

*Instead of thinking about what you want to get rid of, first decide which things you really want to keep.  Do you need it? Does it bring you joy? If you can’t answer yes to either of those questions, then it goes.

* Discard first, and store afterwards. In other words, don’t try to figure out where you want to keep things until after you’ve discarded all things that you aren’t going to keep.

The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life,  promises Marie Konda.  And a whole lot of people are discovering that she’s right.

The Virtue of Obsession

The creative habit is like a drug. The particular obsession changes, but the excitement, the thrill of your creation lasts.

 The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life. And the most important thing is, it must be something you cannot possibly do.

 I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the years’.

-Henry Moore

I received an email recently from a local publicist who interviewed me about the book I am writing. How is it coming along? Would you like to come back when it is finished? She asked.

I was gearing up for a marathon writing session anyhow, but her inquiry was just the push I needed into creative obsession. The initial interview took place early this summer, and for the rest of the summer, I wrote at a snail’s pace. I had all kinds of excuses. But today there is this magical lull. Things are quiet. Nothing else is pulling at my attention. My family is happy and healthy and self-sufficient. No big holidays are bearing down on me yet. There is nowhere I have to be. I know things can change in a heartbeat, a phone call, a minute. For now, endless possibility.

There is no time like the present to obsess over my creative project and make some rapid progress, so I am jumping right in. To hell with balance. Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb by having balance. He obsessed. Obsession gets things done. I’ve eaten the same thing for the past five meals. It’s healthy and delicious so the sameness doesn’t bother me in the least. It’s way easier to obsess when you keep everything else simple. The only things I’m requiring of myself are drinking water and getting some exercise. Is it possible that I really don’t have to think about anything else? For this moment in time, a writer’s dream. I’m taking it.

More than education, intelligence or ability, sticking to something, believing you can accomplish it, and then applying a single minded focus to your goal- in short, tenacity- is key. So there you have it. Two glorious days, maybe more, heck, maybe a week, to obsess, live like a recluse, and focus on nothing else but the words in front of me. I’m even putting off my haircut, because let’s face it, even benign social interaction can dilute the creative process.

No room for fearful or negative thoughts, either. Will I finish? What if this book never makes it out of the slush pile? What if I piss someone off? Worries be gone. They are mind clutter, distractions, and excuses. The luxury of these days, to think of almost nothing else- to do almost nothing else- is liberating! It’s exhilarating. It’s passion. It’s giving the proverbial finger to all the stuff of life that is really okay left undone, at least for the time being. To put a creative project front and center, to make one’s thing the only thing, even for a short time, is a beautiful moment.

Freedom from distraction

There’s an article in today’s Boston Globe about the lengths people will go to avoid being alone with their thoughts. During a part of the study, two-thirds of men and a quarter of the women actually chose a painful shock over having no outside stimulation. The researchers concluded, after several experiments, that most people loathe having even ten minutes of quiet time without distractions.

Timothy Wilson, the psychologist who led the study, wonders if studying people who regularly meditate would show different results. I hope he continues the study, as I think it is an important one in regards to human nature and happiness. My thought is that yes, people who meditate will indeed rate the experience of solitude as positive, rather than negative. I think the reason is twofold.

Everyone is subject to some uncomfortable thoughts now and then, but those who meditate have stopped trying to suppress these disturbances. Long term meditators, anyway, have let them surface, faced them, healed them, and let them go. Avoiding our thoughts, on the other hand, we can distract ourselves into feeling okay. I once read a quote (I don’t recall the author), that I thought was a simple yet brilliant summary of this: By trying to avoid feeling bad, we end up feeling mediocre. Once you’ve committed to meditation, you’ve stopped running from yourself. Grief, regret, anguish, stagnation, if followed to their source, will eventually dissipate, and there is a lot of peace and joy to be had afterwards. It also makes room to guides one’s own thoughts in a chosen direction, and there is power in that.

The second reason I think that people who meditate are happy to sit in seclusion, is that they have practice being alone without actually thinking. When we are free from thinking, we are truly present in the moment. There is room for inspiration, clarity and insight to slip in. When you observe your thoughts, you can then let them come and go without getting too carried away by them. When you let your thoughts go completely for a period of time, you are in the blissful state of meditation. Why would anyone want to avoid this? Experienced meditators seek this out.

In our modern day society, there is absolutely no reason why we have to be still and alone with ourselves for any length of time. It seems that no matter where we are, we have distraction at our fingertips. Entertainment, information, technology- we can take it all in at every second of every day if we so desire. So if most people are more comfortable not being left alone, why should they ever fly solo, unencumbered by anything to do? My unofficial study says they should try it anyway, because facing oneself is the essence of freedom.