I’m grounded: choosing good tools to stay rooted in reality

Two-thirds of my progeny are currently away from home. Aside from double the dog duty when this happens, I also find myself with large, quiet swaths of unoccupied time. I never have much trouble entertaining myself (INFJ), but I have to be careful not to go too far into my head for too long. Discontent is an easy road to travel when my head insists I should be able to create an ideal existence. Unfortunately, very little in this world lives up to the kingdoms I create in my head.  I am a much happier person when I stay a little more grounded.

There are many ways I reground myself when I’m feeling cut-off and adrift, when my body and my reality are the last place I want to be. Meditation, exercise and working with growing things all pull me out of my head space and into my body space. A good wrestle with one of the pups anchors me in the physical present by engaging all my senses, including my sense of fun. But I get the most bang for my grounding buck when I’m doing some good, old-fashioned house work.

If you spend much time at all talking to me, the conversation will roll around to minimalism. I’m a die-hard.  But it wasn’t until recently that I realized how often I use minimalism to plant myself in a healthier reality. The act of evaluation forces me out of what should be, to what is right in front me.

Let’s face it; life gets messy. Relationships require work. Cars break down. College demands tuition. People get sick. There’s literally no end to the list of things which can send us spiraling off into the Land of Should.

This should be easier.
I should have handled that better.
They should know how I feel.
Should Should Should Should.

I constantly take the mental train to Shouldtown, shoulding on myself the whole journey.

That’s the head space I’m talking about, the idealism in which I am so easily trapped. Reality can never compare to all the ways I am certain things should be. Because of my personality, I can camp out for weeks in Should Town, wallowing in my discontent and disdain for the way things are.

Understanding what tools pull me out of that space and back to reality is an important part of my recovery. When I use them to get grounded, I can break out of that funky head space and see reality clearly. Dreams and aspirations are necessary components of happiness, but idealistic perfectionism is the enemy of emotional health.

This week, when I’m not reveling in a book, you’ll find me cleaning closets and sorting the storage area. I’m making meal plans and writing book reviews. I’m touching and working and feeling and sorting, all ways to push my emotional roots further into the soil of my precious reality. If I let myself stay in my head, I miss so much that is beautiful and wondrous right in front of me, already resting in my hands, just waiting for me to notice.

There are so many things I enjoy about my personality. But like everything else in this world, I have strengths and weaknesses. The more I learn about myself, the easier it becomes to pull myself back from unhealthy thought and behavior patterns. I am more than the result of what has happened to me in this world, I’m also what I choose to make from the things I cannot control. When I’m grounded, I can see past what “should” be to what can be, and what steps I can take to facilitate the possibility.

 

Live lightly: When your soul says it’s time to let go

Today I did a wild and crazy thing; I spent almost two hours purging books from my digital library. By purge, I mean delete forever. Go ahead: gasp, faint, recover. Occasionally, I need to lighten the load by whatever means I can find. Honestly, it’s slim pickings around here in the clutter department. After all, I’ve been purging for awhile. Today’s activity is brought about by a need to live lightly. It’s term that’s clanging around in my head recently: live lightly.

I’m considering all the ways that may affect my life. My desire to live more joyfully is one way to live lightly. Also, My on-going minimalism quest constantly reveals things I grasp tightly which only serve to weigh me down.  Even though it seems I should be as minimal as a person can be by now, I can always find new way to consider and evaluate my life. Perhaps that’s the gift of introversion.

Sometimes I play a goofy head-game with myself: could I pack this room up in an hour or less? We all know my addiction to moving to new living places. When I play this game I also ask myself, would I take this with me when we go. If the answer is no, it’s not likely to live here any longer.

But as I said, I’ve been living minimally for awhile. When I get the urge to purge these days, I have to be even more creative than when I began this journey. In my reality, we don’t even have a junk drawer. I know. It’s crazy.

Usually this urge means I am experiencing a sort of spiritual purge as well. This morning I listened to an amazing podcast. (Yes, I listen to one almost every day. What can I say?). Listening to the story of someone else’s spiritual journey, has me thinking about my own. There are many things I drag along with me spiritually that have outlived their purpose and then some. Basically, my urge to purge physically is a manifestation of something much deeper happening inside me.

Since learning this about myself, I’ve noticed that my emotional and spiritual health often mirror my physical environment. When my house is cluttered, my soul feels cluttered. It’s likely my need to lighten up digitally reflects a deeper need to live lighter emotionally and spiritually.

A few days ago, I shared about my need to make some lifestyle changes. As I think about them now, I realize they also are manifestations of this need to lighten up. Interestingly, they also relate to my digital life. Apparently, my soul is willing to use any means necessary to get this message through.

How will this need continue to manifest itself remains to be discovered. It’s tied up with the Month of No, in ways I can’t see clearly yet. But I’m listening, and purging, and sharing with you as new ideas and concepts reveal themselves. Perhaps God is making room to do something new in my life yet again. I’m so very ready. I think I’ll go purge something else to really prove it.

Self-care and minimalism: How to create space for a lazy day

I think about self-care a lot lately. I’m certain it’s partially because of this 100 day project, which is entirely about  self-care. I’m also getting ready to teach for several weeks on Inventory (step four for those of you familiar with a 12-step program), and inventory is all up in the self-care business. My awareness tells me I’m dancing perilously close to depression – though perhaps not as close as I was month ago, thanks to…self-care.  So you can see why it’s frequently on my mind.

This morning on my run, I distracted myself from the hills by considering how minimalism is a form of self-care. First, it’s a way to feel empowered instead of powerless. Second, when minimalism creates margin for priorities, there is more time to do the things which inspire us rather than the things which drain us.

I spent most of Sunday afternoon and evening reading.  I also napped. Normally, these activities make me feel guilty for not being productive. After all there are always things which need doing, right? Except, for me yesterday, there was nothing urgent to be done. My house was mostly clean. I spent a bit of time every day working on my projects. There were things I could choose to do, but to what end? To appear busy? Exactly who am I trying to impress?

So rather than make busy work for myself, I relaxed. I took care of myself.

As I look back over this, I realize it is easy to respond with, “It must be nice to have it all together like this.” It is, except when I don’t. Honestly, last week I worked hard getting things done. I used my bullet journal like a boss. I wrote stuff down and systemically worked through the list, asked for help when necessary, and practiced my no.  I’ve picked up these tools over the years of practicing minimalism. When I use them, I am more likely to “have it all together,” or at least I know where it all is. When I don’t use them, I forget, or procrastinate or create busy work because I have no real direction, driven by an overwhelming anxiety that I am desperately behind on something.

Because I am self-aware, I know that I can function under pressure, but I prefer not to. I do better handling one thing at a time with plenty of forewarning. Practicing minimalism and using my tools usually provides the margin I need to thrive. Obviously, no system is fool proof – crises and the unexpected will always be part of the world we live in. But when I have a well-rested Sunday afternoon to draw on for extra strength, even a curve ball isn’t so frightening.

Practicing minimalism has created space for self-awareness which in turn creates space and opportunity for better self=care. Healthy behaviors lay a foundation for a lifetime of learning and putting into practice, of receiving and in turn pouring out from a soul of abundance. Last month, if asked, I would have said I felt worn out, used up and tired.  This month, when I’m worn out, it’s the kind that comes after a well-lived day. If I’m used up, it isn’t without space for refilling on the calendar.  I’m listening to myself even as I spill words out into the world.

Sometimes I even have room for an entirely self-indulgent Sunday afternoon.

Minimalism and Flexibility: How to stay sane when everything happens at once

When I woke up this gloriously cool morning, I thought to myself , “Man it’s nice to have a slow paced Monday ahead.”  Then everything changed, and suddenly, I’m filling-in, rearranging, TCoB and all the other things that happen on a not-relaxing day.

And it’s ok. It really is.

One of the things that’s great about my life right now is my level of flexibility. Partially because I’m in an in-between season, but mostly I have minimalism to thank for the space to manage a day when all the unexpected things happen at the same time.

Last week I wrote about my obsession with moving and changing things (we have a new smaller bed arriving today, whoo hoo!). Seeing my stuff through a minimalist’s eyes has certainly reduced the amount of belonging in my home. But minimalism isn’t really about stuff. It includes stuff, and for me it began with getting rid of stuff. At it’s heart, minimalism is about making space for what’s most important, and embracing those things fully.

While minimalism may have started with my stuff, it became about making space for who I am. Minimalism is why, when I reached the end of my ability to function without some alone time last week, I was able to move everything aside and make space for self care. I’m not flexible because I have a clean counter-tops, but because the commitments I make on my calendar, to my family, with my friends and for myself are all things which matter most, instead of a jumble of possibly good opportunities with no real relationship to who I am. Breathing space matters, so I make room for it. I schedule it in, and I honor that commitment without guilt.

It takes some courage to apply minimalism to my schedule. It means sometimes I am generous with my No. For instance, we’ve filled May with delightfully fun and celebratory events for people I love deeply, including myself–BIRTHDAY GIRL! Plus, I have two weekly commitments for ministries in which I am heavily invested. Which means anything else that comes up is 99.5% likely to receive a no response.  Yes, I may disappoint people. They may feel I, somehow, let them down. Maybe, but probably not.

The thing is, I have a tendency to see myself with an inflated sense of self-importance. I like to believe I am needed by more people than I am. This isn’t to say I am not appreciated; I am and I know that. But in many instances, I am replaceable, and I believe it’s very healthy to realize this. It doesn’t mean I am not loved. It means I understand where I fit in the world. This understanding is a very freeing way to relate to everyone and everything around me. It helps me make decisions without guilt or resentment. My yes is yes, and my no is no. Those to whom I am irreplaceable, my husband, my children, my family, my intimate relationships, they are the ones who will receive my greatest focus. Other things may be important, but they aren’t permanent, and that’s ok.

All of this self-awareness is possible because minimalism encourages self-exploration and discovery. I know myself better, because I have made space to understand who I am and how I tick. Clearing away the clutter, physical, mental, spiritual and in my schedule, makes room for options and flexibility. It’s why I may feel some stress today, but not nearly crisis or meltdown level. I’ve made space to honor true emergencies, and still meet my most important responsibilities. Everything else is adjustable. It’s truly liberating to be able to say that and mean it.

My Moving Obsession: Thoughts on changes big and slow

I’ve talked about my obsession with moving before. I’m restless and ready for change. Sometimes the quickest way to change is your environment rather than the slower, less noticeable changes which happen internally. Fortunately, both have their place.
We’ve lived in four different houses in our time in Georgia, each one a little smaller than the one before. When we moved from Florida we packed for weeks, used the largest U-haul you can rent and still needed an extra truck and trailer. Even then, knowing what I know now, I think we owned less than the average American household.
We lived in our first house for two years side-by-side with boxes we never bothered to unpack. Crazy right?  Before we moved into our second house, we looked at a small house located on property our church owns.  It seemed like such a good idea, but the house…as we walked around it, all I could think was, our stuff will never fit. There’s nowhere for our stuff. Eventually, we moved elsewhere.
Moving a second time encouraged me to dispose of a few boxes we had never unpacked, but most of our stuff just moved right along with us.   While living in our second home, two things happened. First, although there was a large master bedroom on the bedroom end of the house, there was also a much smaller bedroom and bath on the opposite end away from the cluster of kid bedrooms. It was tiny but connected to a gorgeous sunroom and offered opposite-side-of-the-house privacy.
Oh yeah.
Then, I joined a thirty day writing challenge. I wrote about organization, because who doesn’t want to be more organized? I bought into the idea that organization was the answer to creating a more meaningful life. If I can make room for everything, I can have it all. True to my nature, I began reading books about organization and prioritization.  Randomly, I chose  The 100 Thing Challenge: How I Got Rid of Almost Everything, Remade My Life, and Regained My Soul by Dave Bruno (I’m a complete sucker for a numbered challenge…I mean, I’m writing this as part of the 100 days project, right?).  This began a pattern of exploration which drastically transformed, and still transforms my life.
I discovered the concept of minimalism.
If you’ve read, or spoken with, or been near me, or know someone who’s known me for more than five minutes, you know I beat the drums of minimalism loudly and often.  I love it for a million reasons. But mostly I love that the closer I lean into it, the better me I become. Minimalism is has opened the door for me to learn to release, to examine my motives, to explore new ways of thinking and being and living. There are other ways to become more yourself, for sure (I’m engaging in one of them for eighty-six more days). Minimalism is mine, and I find excellent company in it.
Moving and writing were the catalysts for huge changes in my life. Some happened quickly, like a van full of stuff to Goodwill, or two, or fifteen. Five years later and I dropped four boxes off today.  The real challenge of minimalism began once I worked past the surface: the closets, desk drawers and garage boxes. Then, I wasn’t just purging and prioritizing; I was engaging in some serious self examination.  I begin to ask myself, “Why do I keep this? Do I use it? Do I love it? Is something deeper going on here?” 
Now I entered the real work, the meaty good stuff. Occasionally it’s intense and I have to step away for awhile, but mostly it is completely, abundantly liberating, like being buried under rocks in a cave and suddenly finding the way out.
This whole journey of self-discovery and recovery is possible because five years ago I embraced a new way of life. I wanted cleaner closets and less maternal melt-down. I had no idea when I started where it would lead. Looking back, the whole experience justifies my belief that a simple thirty challenge just might change your life.  Sometimes change is quick, and sometimes slow, but usually, it jumbles hopelessly together.
Incidentally, that little house the church owns that I said we’d never fit into? Five adults and two dogs comfortably live in it now, and we’re only going smaller from here.