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/

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

Twitter is like the ocean

I was feeling so good about time management and simplicity yesterday. Though I skipped my usual morning writing routine, I easily freed up the time later.  In lieu of shopping for the gift I needed to buy, I simply ordered it online. Instead of driving the twenty minutes to and from yoga class, I opted to do my own routine by the deck door where the backyard foliage was visible and a soft breeze reached my mat. Then, rather than convincing my husband we needed to dine out because our groceries had dwindled, I found the last yellow squash in the fridge, roasted it with onion and garlic and diced tomato, and paired that with a box of gluten-free pasta lurking in the back of the pantry. It was quick and good.

All of this simplicity left me with plenty of writing time. I was on top of things. But then I did what all good procrastinators do.

I joined twitter.

I wasn’t planning to, at least not right then.  But it just happened. All the other writers are doing it, right? What if it is useful to me. What if I need it?

So I started off following Stephen King and the Dalai Lama.

Then I added a news feed for those days when the news eludes me.  Now I am up to the minute on the Ebola outbreak, and with an airline pilot husband who could be sent to Africa any day, this is really quite good for keeping anxieties high. Thank you, Twitter.

One hundred thirty-five thousand new twitter users sign up each day. Yesterday I became one of them. Twitter is like the ocean.  Once you are in the sea of tweets, you can easily feel very, very small. Because Twitter is huge. Over six hundred million people huge.

2014-09-19 11.06.11I’ve already tweeted one of my own published articles, and I also re tweeted an article from the Huffington Post about the benefits of meditation. But I imagine people mostly don’t go to Twitter for whole articles. They go for tweets.  I  can hardly imagine that I’ll ever have just one line to say that is worth someone else reading. I mean 140 characters is just a thought, a micro-thought, really. A blip in brain activity. Most of my micro thoughts are probably best kept to myself.

But no worries about being out of control and bogging people down with my  tweets, because I have just five followers so far. And one of them is the BostonCelticsForever, which is funny because I don’t even watch basketball. Or any sports. Ever.

But I signed up for Twellow (apparently the supporting cousin of Twitter) which allows me to join categories of interest and also add my own account for others to find.  So it could turn out, eventually, to be an interesting thing, if not particularly necessary  for me right now.

Fifty-eight million tweets per day in this sea of twittering. Approximately nine thousand tweets per second.  And here’s how many words I got written on my book yesterday:

Zero.

Today, I’m retreating from twitter. I hope the Celtics don’t miss me too much.

@danamusing

Simply Time: our precious commodity

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” ~Annie Dillard

Time flies, we all say. We have to stake a claim, choose what to spend it on, make the hard choices.  Life stretches forth like a patch of calico, busy, colorful, stealing our attention.   When are our lives full and when are they cluttered?  Which are our options, and which are our duties?   Work, play, errands, chores, goals. People, pets, homes, sickness, health. News, sleep, bills, passions,  relationships.   What is productivity and what is perpetual busyness?   When does it call for purposeful attention and when is it a distraction?

I didn’t answer the door the other day. It was a stranger, coming to ask me to buy or sign. I didn’t want to do either.  I don’t feel any obligation to answer the phone, so why should the door be any different? It would’ve diverted my attention from what I wanted to focus on, time stolen from me if I allowed it. Sometimes I wouldn’t mind so much. This time I did.  I felt satisfied afterwards, having protected that moment, keeping my attention from pivoting to someone else’s plan.  It was a small act of claiming, but how many times a day do we interrupt ourselves?  If we don’t know where we want to go, we will be taken any way the wind blows, swallowed into time’s abyss.  Then the day is over. Then the life is over.

We struggle to make peace with time and its passing.  Should we cling? Hold on loosely? Savor it, waste it, use it up, respect it for the limited gift that it is?  To gain some mastery over it requires fierceness; otherwise, it is gobbled up.  To say yes to one thing, we have to say no to another. Choose a path and don’t relent.  Focus and don’t look away.  Let something go. Let someone go.

When we realize how precious time is, we treasure it and we want more of it.  We feel the time behind us, evaporated, invisible. Was it real? Were we there? What did we do? What did we say? And ahead of us- what’s ahead?  Will we get to all we want to do? But if we look behind or ahead, time escapes us again, gone. The moment is over.  

Time can be so fleeting, so vague and wispy. Setting an intention for each block of time that we have helps us to contain it.  Like holding clouds in a jar, this kind of segmenting will protect it from the denseness of life, of time’s thieves.  Time will still pass, but we will have been there with it.