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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50 days ’til 50

In fifty days, I will turn fifty.

Let me just say that I loved my forties. I still feel like I belong in my forties.  Warm and comfortable, cloaked around me, forty-nine is a good fit.  I’m not ready to shed it, to stand shivering at the threshold of a new decade.

Fifty does not sound natural to me, not at all. It sounds like an age someone else turns. I’d rather not claim that birthday, thank you anyway.

But of course there’s no choice. So rather than arriving at my fiftieth year with my heels dug in tight, I’ve got to prove to myself it doesn’t have to suck, not even a little.

It can be graceful and powerful.

It can in fact, be even better than forty-nine.

I know it’s up to me to make that so.

I know the best antidote to aging is just to keep getting better. Live better, eat better, do better, and feel better.

Be brave.

Do our best.

Shed the layers.

Another birthday reminds me that there is no more time to waste.

I will not watch the video of Horambe the gorilla again, in horror.

Nor will I watch another interview of Trump, with equal horror.

Or spend energy loathing anything that I cannot control.

Or generally waste copious amounts of time.

I will not accumulate unnecessary stuff.

I don’t have room for any of that, in my mental or physical space.

I’ve got stuff to do.

Words to write.  Things to say. People to love.

 

20160608_134237.jpgYesterday I went through our book shelves and finally parted with all of the books from my children’s adolescence.

Then I organized my writing books and afterwards claimed a spare room, tucked away in our basement.

I wasn’t sure how this new space would feel, because I‘ve gotten used to writing in our dining room. I can see out the window there; an animal, a neighbor, the school bus stopping across the street. I see when the mail arrives and when someone is coming to the door. If someone else is home, I see them, hear them, and engage in conversation.  My dog meanders over to his food, my husband makes his lunch.

It feels different in this new room, something like meditation, when I settle in. I don’t hear any sounds other than the humming of a dehumidifier. I see nothing in front of me but my words.

Seclusion is like a carpet laid out for my thoughts, an easy place to fall.

It is uncensored by the density of movement or noise.

Inviting to the soul.

It feels right.

And maybe that’s what will happen with turning fifty.

Maybe it will just feel right.

 

 

Yesterday’s post: https://musingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/love-and-choices/

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Writing Clutter

Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, Vimeo, and blogs.

Oh my.

The options for social media for writers (and others) is mind boggling. Dizzying. Overwhelming. businessman-clear-junk-his-head-31524952

Here is how it begins.

You write some articles for a few online and print sources. The editors of these sources expect you to promote these pieces on your own social media sites. That drives traffic to their website.

But who wants to read entire articles on Facebook? Or Twitter? But still, it’s expected that you share.

Speaking of Twitter, did you know that Twitter has an option called TweetDeck for organizing and managing twitter lists and connections? I like lists! I like organizing.

But for now, I am still trying to figure out what the hell I am doing on Twitter. I’m not ready for tools. It’d be like gathering the hammer and nails before I know what I am building.

How does anyone follow hundreds, if not thousands of people? How can anyone possibly read all those tweets? I know, I know, they don’t. But what do they do? The answers are available to me, but I am busy writing. Or trying to.

But I must divide my time. Update and manage Twitter every four days, or something like that. I really should get on that.

And there’s that LinkedIn account that I barely remember creating. It just sort of happened. Like an unwanted, neglected child, it is the accident whose care I am  half-assing. Oh the guilt.

And is it too soon to create a website? Perhaps that is best done after a book is published. And is the website necessary at all if you have a blog? Probably. Because the blog won’t have links to articles. Or will it? Should the blog be moved to the website?

So many questions. So many good answers. I need to get on that. All of it.

I read an article that had this message:  It is not your job to babysit your writing once you publish it.

Finally, something to let go of!

And in theory, I agree. Once you hit publish, forget about it! Move on to your next writing project. Some people will like it and some won’t, every single time, and it’s not really your business to care.

Write. Publish. Promote. Ignore the rest.

But but but…if I hadn’t checked on an essay I shared on Facebook, I would’ve missed the thoughtful comment left by an old friend that I worked with twenty-five years ago, thus missing the opportunity to respond. That would’ve been a tiny bit sad.

Some of the “babysitting” of our work is just being a human.

I love writing.

And since I typically believe in my writing, I don’t really mind promoting it.

But we live in a time that encourages much more social media promotion than face to face promotion. It is more efficient. It’s economical.

Don’t get me wrong, I like sitting behind my laptop. Writing is a solo activity. I can barely tolerate  the radio being on when I am creating. Too many voices.

But I sort of prefer promoting (if we must call it that)  in person; reading my writing aloud, or just speaking it aloud to a live audience who is there to hear some stories. You know, like the way writers used to do it.

Fortunately though, some of it can still happen that way, if we want it to. We may have to create our own opportunities to do so, but what’s a writer without an entrepreneurial spirit?

I was at a writer’s event recently, and when the topic of social media came up, the man next to me, who was also middle-aged, looked pained.

“Do you have a Facebook or Twitter account?” he asked, hoping I’d say no.

“Yes, I do. But…
I wanted to convince him that it did not have to be painful, not really. That you can pick and choose your sites, and how often you use them, and..

“I hate all that”,  he replied. “Maybe I should just quit now.”

And I am pretty sure I saw him give up his writing dreams, right before my eyes.

I don’t think J.K. Rowling was promoting writing all over social media before she published the Harry Potter series. I have the impression that she just quietly wrote her literary sensation and then later, perhaps, her staff put up a twitter account while she got to work on her next best seller.  Why can’t we all be like J.K. Rowling?
Sometimes I think social media is just one way the universe is conspiring to take me away from writing, because writing is an unnecessary, frivolous endeavor that begs to be interrupted.

But other times, I think writing is the air that I breathe and a means of connecting us all, and that I will never stop, as long as I am able.

I am going to another writing conference next month. This one will be led by a senior literary agent from Writer’s Digest, and one other expert, a best-selling author.

Day two of the weekend-long event will be dedicated to “positioning your book for success in today’s difficult publishing climate”.

Part of that will include helping us to navigate this maze that is social media, and to organize and prioritize our writer’s brand. And they  will do it in person. In the flesh. Preferably while holding our hands.

After the workshop, I will put my media ducks in a row, and lift my head to the surface, the place of starting to have it all figured out. From there I will continue writing. Or breathing. It’s all the same to me.

Time for chores

This was published in Huffington Post today: 

20150610_081629I keep coming across articles about how Millennials are making serious attempts at living simplified lifestyles. From pared-down wardrobes and weddings to pared-down homes, they are aiming for lifestyles that reflect meaning, experiences, time and relationships over stuff. If this is true, and there really is a quiet revolution of minimalism happening among this generation, then I say this is good news. Good for them!

After all, life can get complicated and cluttered enough, without inviting the added stress and chaos of too-muchness.

Perhaps as children, many Millennials witnessed stressed out parents working too hard to pay for bigger and better things, and now they want to live differently. Or maybe many of them were overscheduled or overburdened with too many resume-building activities while growing up, and now they want to take back their time.

Maybe their desire to simplify was born of these experiences or maybe not. It’s possible that there is a minimalist trend in much of society now, and Millennials just happen to be the ones being watched. I don’t know. I didn’t do the research, but I am interested in any trends in minimalism, no matter who the subjects are.

In addition to their newfound reputation of becoming minimalists, Millennials have been dubbed self-centered and possessing a sense of entitlement. Personally, I think such a generalization is unfair, but if there is any truth to it at all, aren’t their parents partly to blame?

Perhaps some of these kids have been raised with the belief that the universe revolves around them and their over-packed schedules, while the mundane chores of life magically get done (probably while their parents should be sleeping or relaxing), or they don’t get done at all because who has any time left? It’s just a theory.

There are chores in life. Lots and lots of chores. Food needs to be purchased and prepared, and cars need to be maintained and toilets need to be scrubbed and bills need to be payed and finances need to be organized and pets need to go to the vet and laundry needs be done and dishwashers need to be emptied. Rugs get vacuumed and trash gets put out. Appointments get scheduled and drains need to be unclogged and papers get filed and mail gets opened and birthday gifts get ordered and thank you notes get written.

If kids don’t partake in any of this while growing up, they won’t factor in that they actually have to leave time in their lives to do the stuff of life. Chores. Maintenance. Cleaning it up. Getting it done. Letting them believe that all of this just magically gets done is not serving them well, in my opinion.

In fact, it’s a lie.

All I’m saying is, perhaps along the way some of us forgot to factor in all the time it takes to get things done that are required to live a decently organized and grown up life. Or we forgot to let the kids bear witness to that, let alone have them take part in it.

There is work to do, often tedious, annoying work, and it must get done within the twenty four hours that we have in a day.

So as far as I can tell, it’s not only okay, but pertinent to sometimes say:

I don’t have time for that.

You don’t have time for that.

Because there are the chores.

Because if dinner doesn’t get cooked, we are going to eat crap and I prefer not to live that way.

Because if I don’t put the laundry away today, it will come out of my writing (or working, or playing or fill-in-the-blank) time tomorrow.

Because if this doesn’t get done now, it will come out of my sleep and if I don’t get eight hours sleep, I will feel lousy.
Maybe the Millennials have figured it out now. Perhaps they have become painfully aware of the limits of their resources; time, money, and energy. No wonder we are watching their tendency toward minimalism with interest. They seem to be absorbing a valuable truth at this time: their life really is about them. The choices are theirs to make. That’s not selfishness; it’s awareness. And time? That’s all theirs too. It’s on their side, after the chores are done.

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.

 

Making Room

small_4355223864It seemed that as I made the decision to spend more time working on my book and less time with other things, including blogging and writing essays, I was tested. I had a flood of blog post ideas, a request to write for Mamalode appeared in my inbox as well as an invitation to speak at a conference in the spring.

What should I do? Keep my goal very simplified, nose to the grindstone until I finish the book and ignore anything else that comes my way, including many of my other writing impulses?  Or say yes?

As luck would have it, I happen to be following the career of Mel Robbins. She is currently my mentor, though she doesn’t exactly know it. I think a mentor has to be someone who is not so unlike you that can’t relate, but who has much more of what you are aspiring to. As a CNN commentator and legal analyst our career paths differ hugely.

But she is also an author and a speaker and she loves motivating others with her words. She is happily married, has three children, and lives in the Boston area (me too!) She loves clothes and Martha Beck (so do I!) And I’ll bet she’s organized.

She has a no BS approach to getting what she wants and to helping others get what they want. And in addition to her great practical approach, she has a strong belief in the power of intuition, as I do. Career-wise, she is leaps and bounds ahead of me. But I can relate to her.

Mentor? I guess you could say she is my girl crush. I read her book and watched all of her videos on You Tube. I wanted to hear what she has to say. During one of her interview videos she spoke of saying Yes to all invitations during the first year of her speaking and writing career. She mentioned how one opportunity led to the next and so on, and that saying Yes was what really moved her forward. She advised against either-or- thinking in the face of opportunities and goals. Often, we can do this and that.

So I said Yes to writing for Mamalode (I get to choose how often) and Yes to the speaking invitation (it’s not until spring after all, and will only take up one day). I am saying Yes to my blog post ideas when they come to me (like this one) instead of putting them off until the ideas fade. I can do these things and consistently work on my book.

But only if I keep saying No to other things. I have to stay vigilant of all the ways clutter can sneak in- to my head, my home and my days. Simplifying is a must for me, in order to avoid overwhelm and to keep moving forward.

To refresh my resolve to keep my life uncluttered of things that don’t matter much to me, I watched several videos on minimalism. There are so many out there, and like a junkie, I could have watched them all night.

The Marie Kondo method of decluttering.

Peter Walsch, the professional organizer, writer and media personality.

There are even very young people on YouTube, speaking about how much happier they became when they went from being recreational shoppers and accumulators, to minimalists.

Matthew Williams of LifeEdited has some really cool stuff for city dwellers: http://www.lifeedited.com/about/

Minimizing beauty products, kitchens, closets; the possibilities go on and on. There are videos of encouragement and suggestions for every area of life. But alas, as much as I enjoy them and find them inspiring, I could not watch them all. At a certain point, watching more would be wasting too much time, something that simplifying is supposed to help us avoid. So I stopped when I found a favorite and I am posting it here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-nMDzccJwc

Andrew Mellen is a professional organizer in New York City. His words resonate with me. I love what he has to say about simplifying, and I think you will too. He leaves a lot of room for personal preferences and values, and the guy makes sense for everyone in my opinion. Although his video is forty-four minutes long, you can get his whole message in the first twenty. The second part is just a question-and-answer session with his audience.

One of my favorite points that he makes is this: If you are embarking on a new path of simplifying or getting organized, you do not have to fit that in your schedule on top of everything else you already do. You simply need to stop doing the things you don’t want or need to do in order to make room for the task of organizing. Here is the link again. I hope you enjoy it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-nMDzccJwc

Whether our goal is to get organized or to change careers or write a book or cook more meals or anything at all that we find worthwhile, we first have to let go of all that is not serving us. We have to make room.

When I feel stuck or overwhelmed, I ask myself, what do I need to let go of? Usually it comes to me, and often it’s obvious. I am forever a student on this path.

So I emailed Mel Robbins, commenting on her work and asking her a question about mine. She responded with great enthusiasm, gave me some good advice, and then asked if I would contribute to the research of her next book by writing my responses to ten questions she would send me.

I said Yes.