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.

Fifty days later: Thoughts from the middle of everything.

Fifty days ago, I decided I would write and publish a blog for one hundred days in a row. Today is day fifty-one which means it’s all closer to the end than the beginning from here. I’ve reached the middle at last. When I started this project, I hated everything (perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but not much), and I could tell I was circling the drain of depression. The question I ask myself today is whether or not writing and sharing daily is really makes any difference.

The answer is yes. It is making a difference. I am different than I was fifty days ago. I’m emotionally healthier than I was fifty days ago.

Is it all due to the writing? Probably not. However, the writing has been a catalyst, a foundational habit on which other positive changes are laid.  I write daily. Since beginning to write, I also run and meditate daily. My reading is more focused; I finish what I started. After completing a journaling class, I write in my journal before blogging each day. I wrote the curriculum for and co-taught a community care class which opened the door for many brilliant conversations on self-care/ self-awareness, compassion and healing. I’m reworking step 4 (Inventory), and shared my own story of recovery with my recovery community.

Yes, these fifty days have been full with all of the pieces playing a vital part of my journey back to health. The spark, however, comes from this practice taking place on-screen every day.

The discipline of writing so many days in a row, forces me to plan intentional writing time. On the days when I have not, I’ve regretted the cobbled together silliness that gets published. The same response happens on the days I procrastinate too long and am trying to make coherent thoughts with my afternoon brain. Afternoon brain can do many things, but writing isn’t one of them.

I continue to learn more about myself every day. How toxic relationships have stolen my joy for far too long. How I can live within healthy boundaries instead of exposing myself to further harm. I’m inspired to be bold again, and honest, and kind. I often feel afraid, still, but I don’t let fear be the loudest voice in my head.

More than anything, writing opens up my desire to be creative again. I don’t know how long my creativity laid dormant. I only know I’d forgotten how good it feels to create something new in the world, even if no one but me knows of its existence. Writing ignited the spark and all the other creative endeavors are blowing life into it, convincing it to stay, to grow.

Even though our life circumstances haven’t changed, and the waiting continues to feel like drowning in molasses, I wait differently now. I am not without hope, not the powerless victim of whatever circumstance tries to throw my way. I can generate change, within and without. Writing has taught me this. Showing up, following through, embracing imperfection, muscles I’d forgotten to flex. Using them makes me feel strong again. Even on sad days, I don’t have the despair that was so heavy before.

And here you are, fifty days later. Patiently returning to read each day. You provide inspiration too. You remind me we aren’t alone in this big, old, chaotic world. I remember now that we are far more alike than different most of the time.

What will I do after the next fifty days? I’m not sure yet, but that doesn’t bother me. In time, all things will be revealed. Until then, I continue to do the work I know is good and healing. I don’t have to be afraid to stop doing things which aren’t beneficial, or to try something new, or recognize when a season changes. All things change. Even me.

Thank goodness.

Between Days: Finding clarity when nothing is clear

Today is the day between, between celebrating my youngest daughter’s life and celebrating my own. I’ve already picked my hammock spot for tomorrow, a nice shady spot on the lawn. I have lovely books at my fingertips. After a breakfast date with the Hunky and before dinner which I will neither plan nor cook (the best kind), will be hours of hammock reading.  

We’re on the cusp of summer here. We start the morning with windows open, but close them before lunch, and by evening are grateful for air conditioning to ease us into sleep.  I had hoped for things to happen this summer which no longer look likely. So now I’m wondering what I will do while my kids work, and I wait for whatever happens next.

More between space.

Today, life is fairly busy. Preparing to speak, writing, reading, teaching, coaching, planning. This month is filled to bursting, and I am deftly managing and arranging to accommodate all the pieces. It’s a good kind of busy, much of it right in my sweet spot, and things which aren’t are made more pleasant because they are for those whom I dearly love.

But I’m also looking forward to things winding down.  I can’t maintain this pace forever without becoming snarled and mean.  My personality generally requires more space than it has now, and eventually, the bill will come due for the energy I’m expending now.  Tomorrow’s lazy celebration will be a welcome oasis in the middle of this manic swirl.

But today I’m waiting and wondering, what will I do with this abruptly unplanned summer?  I already know I don’t want to fill the days with mindless busyness or too many social expectations. ( This is Introvert Level 10 code for: Can I not see anyone all summer long?) How can I spend days mindfully and well, while also continuing to care for this soul which is still feeling tender and new?

Recently I’ve been spending time with breathing meditation, quiet, empty, focused.  It’s definitely making a difference in my balance during the busy days.  I’m considering making this summer an extended breathing meditation. A quiet, empty, focused space, a space between, tucked gently inside a busy season and the season of what’s-coming-next.  Perhaps a pause for deep breathing is exactly what this anxious heart needs more than anything else.

 

(Zen Habits’ 44 training challenge arrived just in time for my own turning 44. You can check it out here.)

Something Fun Sunday: Episode 3, The one where I take a nap

I’m I the only person who feels worn out each Sunday? I know it’s traditionally the first day of the week, but my mind has given that title to Monday. By Sunday afternoon, I’m just tired. In just a little while, one of my fun things for Sunday is going to be a great big afternoon nap. Amen!

This week threw curve balls and changes galore. The Hunky and I finally got a new bed. The Portwood-ettes barreled on through their last semester before college. Summer is so close they can practically smell it, and the weather here wants us to believe it’s summer already. Have I mentioned my disdain for summer?

I’m two weeks into the Whole 30 eating plan today. Every Sunday I want to give up and eat a loaf of bread, but every Monday pushes me one week closer to the finish line and I batten down my self-control and power on. This year I am measuring inches instead of mean old LBS, and I’m about 2 more inches from a crisis in the pants department. I dislike clothes shopping, but I suppose this is a pretty good reason to need to.

On to the Fun Stuff

Yesterday I shared what I’m reading for 100 story summer. But I never read only one book at a time, and I always have a non-fiction going along with my fiction. This week I am reading about some natural ways to combat depression. I’m on a huge self-care kick (if you couldn’t tell), so this is right up my alley.

I’m always late to a band wagon – if I choose to join it – but I’m only a few weeks behind the S-town podcast bandwagon. Friends, I gotta tell you, this is one great story. I didn’t expect to be so emotionally invested or to relate to so many of the events. I’m halfway through and it’s all I can do not to quit everything in order to just sit and listen. Hello, self-control.

Growing up, I always felt very competitive. I had to be the best, all the time, at everything.  Thankfully, I’ve moved away from that mind-set over the last few years. There are many things I want to do well, but I want to do them well for me, not in order to beat someone else or prove anything. Mostly, I want to lead a quiet, fulfilling life. That’s why I love this article: What if all I want is a mediocre life?  I don’t have to be the best at anything as long as I am striving to be the best me.

I know I proclaim my love for Spotify often and loudly, but it really does bring so much fun into my life. This week I put together a playlist so fraught with nostalgia, I can’t stop listening to it. I grew up in Nashville listening watching Hee-Haw, loving the Grand Ole Opry and listening to classic country. My dad loved the Outlaws ( Waylon and Willie and the boys), and me, I just love it all. No one else in the house wants to hear it so I have to listen wisely, but just a little everyday is enough to make me happy for hours and hours. So, if you want to laugh at me, or join in my reverie, I’m sharing the playlist here.

I hope everyone gets a little nap today, and we all head into next week knowing everything is already ok. Hey, it’s May…BIRTHDAY MONTH!! Whoooo-hooo!

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.

The intersection of margin and play: A Playful Manifesto reboot

Nothing feels more expansive to me than an unscheduled stretch of time.  When I take a day to refocus, I swear, I can actually feel my brain, my physical brain, relax.  Learning how to create margin in my schedule and responsibilities is an on-going process, but I am getting much better at it.

While I not looking at my to-do list and not vacuuming the bedroom, my brain was deliciously occupied with plans and fun projects for the summer (I can barely stand not to write about it today, but I’m saving that fun for the weekend. It’s going to be great!). I hooked new yarn and dreamed about our new bed. For a little while, I stood outside and glowered at the tomatoes which aren’t going to grow anymore apparently.  I watched an episode of Gilmore Girls, or seven. What?!! I’m almost done with the whole show!

In other words, today was great big unruly, lazy, restful enjoyment, and I don’t feel one bit guilty about it. It’s true; I require a good deal of margin to be at my best, but I’ve decided my best is worth the wait.

Last week, I planned to start a sort of throw-back Thursday theme, sharing writing which originally appeared on the Middle Places blog (A moment of silence, please.  They were good years). Instead, I decided not to stress over an in-depth project today.

However, while I was sorting through the word treasures, I found this fun little piece from last summer, which completely fits my mood today.  I remember feeling full of hope and inspiration when I wrote it. Which helps me believe that maybe I don’t hate everything anymore. Maybe I just hate some things, now. It seems a little writing, running, music, booking and hooking and great deal of margin is exactly what I need in this season.

So as a reminder to us all: The playfulness manifesto, a reboot

 

Playful Manifesto

Today, I will not lose myself in the mundane or the hum-drum.
Time is precious and happy memories last a lifetime;
No one reaches the end of their days with regret over unwashed laundry.

I may make a to-do list, but I reserve the right to leave items for tomorrow.
I may sleep in, or I may get up early to see the sunrise.
Some weeks I will do both,
And take naps.

Refusing to hurry, I will waste time.
If there is cake, I will eat it.
As often as possible
Yes! will be my response to myself and my loved ones.
I will read books that make me feel.
I will watch movies and eat popcorn.
Since, both ice cream and watermelon both have healing properties,
I will have second helpings of both

I will smile often,
Be in pictures with my family.
 The words “beach body” or “bikini ready”
will not be a measure of self worth.
I will wear pajama pants at inappropriate hours.
As the sun sets,
I will drive fast with the windows down and the radio on
Full blast.
I will live in the moment.
When I forget to live in the moment,
I will breath deeply and try again.
Then I will try again.
I won’t stop trying.

I will swim in the lake.
 Lie in the sun,
Rest.
I will stop looking at the time while rushing everywhere.

Playfulness is as important to life as discipline and responsibility.
I will not lose myself in in should and must.
Instead, I will laugh, because laughter is a miracle.
Embracing imperfection I will remember
just because I can’t do a thing perfectly doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it.
It’s perfectly acceptable to be weird.
or eat cake and ice cream for breakfast.
I don’t have to conform to the modern definition of anything.

 Now, let’s go out and play.

Introvert Cookies: how I defy cultural norms

Each week when we meet together for Celebrate Recovery, we have snacks.  It’s a well-known law in the south that wherever two or more are gathered in His name there will be a covered dish. Now, I’m not opposed to snacks in the least, but I gave myself permission to defy cultural norms and not take food every place I go. Therefore, I don’t snack socially anymore (the basic, don’t eat if you didn’t contribute principle – my own rule, not anything imposed upon me). It reduces my stress level and my waistline. Win-win.  But Monday evening, my friend was concerned about the quality of her cookie contribution. I sacrificed my principles and taste tested a cookie, strictly for quality control.

It was delicious. Amazing. Soft, crumbly, buttery shortbread cookie topped with melted caramel and chocolate, which then cooled into a sort of shell. If someone made a homemade twix bar, it would taste like this cookie, only this cookie makes twix blush with shame. I know this because after the first cookie I ate two more. I am the sort of friend who will sacrifice deeply in this way.

There was, however, one slight drawback to the cookies. The caramel, as it hardened, became very, very chewy. And as my friend does not stint on ooey-gooey toppings, it wasn’t a thin layer. The result was an amazingly, delicious cookie which rendered the eater entirely unable to communicate during the consumption process, or for a few minutes afterwards. Worth it.

While most CR guests are in small group, two or three of us set out the snacks in a separate room. This is where the quality control occurs, and it is where two of us succumbed to shortbread cookie ecstasy and silence for several minutes. What’s funny about this is both of us handling the set up are highly introverted. Together, we share our introvert struggles, anxieties, and what we like about our personalities, even when they make it difficult to fit in. We are also quite comfortable to be together quietly for large chunks of time, as introverts do. On Monday nights, these quiet setting up moments are sandwiched between two periods of high social interaction for us, This little bit of quiet space is always welcome.

So here we are, alone in a big room, chewing cookies. And chewing cookies. More chewing. And still more chewing, delicious buttery, caramel-y cookies.

It went on for a bit.

And then, we got the giggles. We attempted conversation, but we just couldn’t do it. We could not talk and consume this cookie at the same time. Instead we immersed ourselves in cookie-chewing until the experience ended. After we laughed and giggled…and ate another cookie…we decided to call them Introvert Cookies. If handed out to a room full of people, these cookies would halt conversation for a very long time. Which of course got us giggling even more. We had to eat another cookie to prove our hypothesis.

Sure enough, delicious silence. Just like I like it.

It’s interesting to me, as I look back, not just on this silly moment, but over the last year, how much more at ease I am with myself. My decision to eat before leaving home so I don’t have to take a covered dish somewhere, or my contentment with sitting quietly in a room even with other people around, or a hundred other quirks and oddities which make up the essence of me have long been a point of internal contention. One day I finally realized I don’t have to conform to popular culture. I don’t have to buy certain things, or eat certain ways, or be on certain bandwagons just to fit in.

I can do these things, and sometimes I do. But when I do, it is without pressure or resentment. Giving myself permission to be who I am has freed me to do everything more wholeheartedly.

It helps when we realize, we all exist in imaginary cultural boxes. Christians think this. Teen-agers do that. Poor people are this way. The world works that way.

Except it isn’t true, not all the time, or for every person. Boxes are neater, sure. And whole lot easier. We all experience tremendous pressure to conform to box where we mostly identify. But what would it look like if we didn’t? I don’t have the answer, but exploring the possibility has led me on a very healing and exciting journey.

If you like, we can share an introvert cookie and think about it.