Monday, October 16, 2017

GARAGE TRANSFORMED


Last post was a good old fashioned 'BEFORE' picture.
You can review it here: Insights from a Garage
I opened up all the dirty laundry that was hanging out in this 
little bitty shack behind our house.
Then I gloated a little bit about how trans-formative a change it has been.
This post is all about the 'AFTER'.
Who doesn't love a good before and after?
You've seen the mess:

BEFORE


And so you might be expecting to see a complete and utter re-do-
where everything is different.
Where the life that existed 'before' is completely over-hauled and off-set by several thousand dollars of purchases or plastic surgery or weeks of intensive exercise. 
Isn't that what a good makeover show will do?
Allow you to get rid of your life and replace it with someone else's?
AMIRIGHT?
I don't think so.
The big reveal.....AFTER!
At least...that's not what you'll see here.
We didn't buy new furniture or remake our lives with more stuff in this transformation.
We didn't become butterflies from caterpillars.
We are already enough-we don't need to be someone 
completely different or inhabit a whole new land of stuff to prove that.
There were a few trips to Lowe's Home Improvement 
but we had almost all the containers that we needed.
Sit with that for a sec...under all that pile of dysfunction
WE HAD WHAT WE NEEDED ALL ALONG.
It was already there, 
waiting to be uncovered or put into it's actual, right place.
Am I totally on drugs to think that this is such a good metaphor for living a whole life?
The last time we had a live Christmas tree was B.C. (Before Children)

The first day of the garage weekend cleanout weekend, we pulled everything out of the garage.

We split it into 3 piles:  trash, sell, and keep.
Our current yard is a tenth of an acre.  Approx. a tenth of that is grass.  

The trash pile was easy to agree on.

The pile to sell or get rid of in a different way was harder.
That required quite a bit of negotiation.
We owned a lot of stuff.
Some of it was valuable-but only valuable to someone else.
Motorcycle helmet? No longer needed.
Rock climbing gear? Haven't used in 16 years.
Cool strings of lights with hearts on them ? Still in the package.
We had to assign a value to the item and then try and sell it.
Some of it did not sell.
This stuff was heavy.
It needed to go.
There was real risk of it settling back into some new nook or cranny
 if we didn't have a plan.
We agreed on a timeline...
the stuff that didn't sell was donated to our church's youth group
 who was having a yard sale.
We have a lot of need to strap things down and hang things up.....
Now onto the stuff that we decided to keep.

We agreed that it is useful and necessary.
But....there was a lot of it.
How do we put that back in so that we can actually use it?
How can we help this space work for us 
instead of maneuvering around things constantly.
Everything has a place
This took most of the second day.
And some fiddling.
But the things we need and use most often (bikes, tools)
are handy.
The things that we only use occasionally 
(golf clubs, camping gear) 
are stored away.
No more random piles of screws, nails, bolts, hooks.  They live in this handy containers.

We grouped like with like.
So...all the tools are with similar tools 
(hammers together, screw drivers, ratchets).
Also, tools for similar projects are together-
painting supplies are in one area, 
electrical work in another.
Fuses and cables and cord-OH MY!

And labels are on many things.  
Labels to remind us where things go so we don't have to try 
and hold the pattern in our tired brains. 
Labels to remind us what we have 
and what we don't.
Labels so that we can understand the system and continue it. 

Calling a thing what it is, keeps it in it's place.


Our garage is useful now.  It's not just a thing that we have to carry around or fill up with stuff.  I keep wondering..how did I get this life that is so beautiful?  And also...how much more beautiful this life is when I prepare for the beauty.

Chairs for soccer and room for a little bit of beauty

Thursday, October 12, 2017

INSIGHTS FROM A GARAGE

Can you tell what's behind this door?

Because I've been talking about a lot of emotional stuff....
I just want to pause and talk about real life.
Specifically the tactical, tangible changes that are happening in my life 
as I learn to live and breath into myself.
The innate super-powers that become enabled when I have clarity on self-care.
It's possible that I am just gloating and obnoxious about this whole subject. 
Warning....I'm going to talk about it anyway.

Turns out....getting clear on your priorities allows you to do magic.
Let me give you a for-instance.
When you are clear on your priorities,
you can actually schedule a whole weekend of time....
to clean out your garage.

I know-it doesn't sound that sexy or magical.
But it is the DIY equivalent of losing 20 pounds.
It is breathing and air.
It is taking care of myself and my life.
It is about damn time.
The before shot.  I was afraid to get too close.
We have lived in our current house for 11 years.
It's a lovely house that is exactly the right size
for 4 humans who are reasonable editors of their stuff.
There is a picture of my garage at the top of this post.
So cute right?
It is not actually big enough for one of our modern SUVs to park in
but it is big enough to store our tools, bikes, and assorted accessories.
Or at least it should be.

Some bikes we use.  Some bikes we don't.  KEEP THEM ALL was our motto.
We are not
in fact
good editors of our stuff.
We have been piling crap that doesn't work in our lives in this garage
 for a solid 10 years and 11 months.
There are so many things in this garage that are useful and needed.
Things we use daily or weekly.
Tools that are expensive and should be cared for.
Toys that are beloved and provide joy to each of us.
You just have to wade through all the crap to get to it.

No one in my house has played golf or racquetball in at least 3 years.

This garage is a useful metaphor for my life.
I have a couple of lines of thought that justify continuing to keep stuff around.
Line of thought #1 is based in a myth of scarcity, a fear of missing out or just plain anxiety.  
It goes something like this:
I might need this one day....so how about I just keep it.
Just in case.
 I definitely cannot let this item go.
It is valuable and useful.
To someone.
Possibly to me....
Although I haven't used it in years.
Maybe not ever.
It is important! 
I don't remember why....so I'll just keep it.
Just in case.

Can you see that desk chair?  Neither could we.

Line of thought #2 is based in a lack of responsibility or failure to take ownership.  
It goes something like this:
This doesn't actually work anymore but will require me to change my routine
in order to get rid of it.
It's too exhausting to get rid of it-
it's too heavy, too cumbersome, too toxic-
so I'll put it here until I feel capable or interested 
in taking care of this problem.
And....
I don't want to make time to take it to the place 
where it needs to go (i.e.-the dump) 
so I will just put it in the very back and start stacking things on it.
I'll never need to look at that broken thing again
if I can pile more useful, prettier things on top of it.
Hopefully it will disappear into the landscape of my life.
Exactly how many half used containers of cleaner do we need?

Can you see how this is JUST LIKE LIFE?
There was a long time where all aspects of my life
were the equivalent of this garage.
Outside, with the walls and masks up-
everything looks ok.
Open that door up and start looking around and
I promise you'd be shocked.
Apparently, all aspects of your life are all connected
even if you're refusing to believe it.
Having trouble with your work relationships?
You're probably experiencing those similar themes in EVERY relationship.
Hustling for your worth with a parent?
Probably hustling for your worth in every venue.
Trying to measure up?
The measuring stick is ever-present, even when you refuse to see it.


My soul work is to let the outside match the inside
EVEN IF THE INSIDE ISN'T THAT PRETTY.
Let what it is
be what it is.
Stop spending energy trying to pretend or hide.
Accept reality.
Once you accept it, you can begin to change it.

Back to the garage...
All the pictures in this post are taken on the first day of our two day garage clean out.
They are the literal piles of junk that we took out of that little tiny space.
Our tiny yard could barely hold all the stuff that was crammed into this garage.
The goal for the first day was to take it all out, 
put it in the light of day,
SEE IT.
 Mission was accomplished.
Next post will show the fruits of our labor.


Here's a little foreshadowing...we bought a label maker.


Tuesday, October 03, 2017

FREEDOM FROM STRENGTH

Artwork created by my daughter 

Once upon a time...
there was a little girl who was smart and beautiful and silly and erratic and lazy and weak.
She was lots of things (as we all are) but....
the trait that defined her within her family was strength.
Again and again she was praised for being strong.
So that is what she came to understand about herself.
She was strong.
She could do it.
All of it.
For everyone.


The little girl learned to be what other people told her she was-
she got really good at wearing that mask.
The one where she was strong
and her other gifts were shadow traits.
Strong is the new pretty right?
My sweet girl many years ago....


As the little girl grew up the mask grew with her...sort of.
It was really tight and only stayed on if she held herself still.
No rocking of the boat and she could still fit that narrow label.
Strong.
No weakening of the resolve or expansion of the heart and she remained.
Strong.

Strong began to feel pretty constricting.
Like being wrapped in a vise by a large, lethal snake.
She couldn't breathe.
Like whole parts of her had to be suppressed or annihilated in order to fit.
Tools were sometimes necessary to remain in this place...
tools like denial and lots of words that end in -ism.
Workaholism.
Asceticism.
Egotism.
Perfectionism.
Escapism.
Formalism.
Maybe even alcoholism.

An early representation of my masks....

The formerly little girl began to wonder...
does everyone else have to live like this?
Or is it just me?
Am I the only one who has to stay within a mask?
What would happen if I stopped, took it off, stepped outside?
What would my label be then?
She thought about these things for a few years.
While she did, the mask started to fracture and slip.
People around her started to question her actions
-she wasn't always doing the things that were expected of the strong.

She was wearing the mask so she was the one assigned 
to do the heavy-lifting.
Be strong.
Fix us.
Keep it together.
She tried.
Really hard.
With all the strength she had, she tried hard to maintain that mask.
It was her defining characteristic after all...the one that mattered.
Without that mask, who would she be?

Poetry by Nayyirah Waheed.  Incredible Woman.

And then...the mask broke.
More like....It shattered.
Ok...it didn't break so much as she destroyed it.
One day she threw it against the wall in a fit of anguish and gut-wrenching rage.
Then stomped it into little bits on the floor and swept them away in the wind of her screams.
Turns out...strong can't contain everything.


The woman born that day slowly began to realize that while she is strong
it is not nearly a large enough label to contain all that she is.
She is all things-and none of the things.

Art by me available periodically via my Etsy Store.

That one-time girl has resolved to never be in jail again-
even a jail of soft comfort.
She is still able to hold the line 
frame the resolution
protect the weak
comfort the weary.
Those are definitely gifts of strength.

She is also able to
 dance like a dervish
laugh until she snorts
be almost inconsolable in heart-break
speak out in the face of injustice
refuse to meet expectations
and rest because she is tired.

That woman will not wear a mask so that others can be comfortable.
She has no interest in making anyone else wear them either.
That includes all areas of her life but especially within safe spaces.
Family.
Marriage.
Church.
Job.
Country.

She will not be jailed
and she is not a jailer.
All of her is showing up-all the time.
Ready or not.

Art by me available periodically via my Etsy Store.







Thursday, September 28, 2017

PRAYER FOR THE ANXIOUS


Creator
there is sometimes an itch in my soul
a shadow on my neck
a chill in my spine
a flutter in my heart.

For so long felt like a wrinkle in my skin
a cowlick on my head,
the bend of my hip.

Now, I understand that it is OTHER
an alien parasite
that needs my energy to exist.



It is insistent
stealthy as it pervades
my subconscious, attempts to find purchase on my surface.
I ignore it.
My denial helps it steep-
until it is finally strong enough to nudge me into actions.
Once again, I find myself hustling for my worth,
rearranging myself so that I fit
easing burdens for others that don't pinch.


Searching for the solution
but not quite understanding the problem.
I have left an important note in the pocket of my jeans
that may have gone into the wash already
but if I move quickly-I can snatch it back just in time
to save it from the dryer.
If I hurry.
If I am smart.
If I am enough.

In these moments sweet Maker....
I need you.
Help me to remember myself.
Help me to connect to my SOURCE
the place where You reside.
Help me to be still
and know 
that you ARE.


Enough.

Monday, September 18, 2017

THE PATH FROM NORMAL TO WILD




The first 4 days I was on vacation in Accidentally Oriental, 
I slept from about 8:30 pm to 10:30 am.
Sleeping fourteen hours a night is a lot of sleep for an adult.
I slept as though I was ill or devastated by a tragedy. 
Possibly I was going through a growth spurt
or fighting off a jealous witch's curse. 
The path to exhaustion has often felt magical to me
but it's also felt normal.

Yes...it's time for me to accept that exhaustion feels normal for me.
I've been to this place called exhaustion so often that I don't need a map or directions or a reason to get there anymore.
I'm a homing pigeon and exhaustion is my home base.
I can auto-pilot there without any sensory tools or aids.
In fact...I am and have been dangerous to myself for years.
Taking myself right back to 'Normal'.

However, I have changed fundamentally....in a seemingly small way.
I listen to my BODY now.
I hear her speak to me
I can now recognize when I get to exhaustion 
and in spite of my many years of residency....
my old 'normal' no longer feels like a good place to be

Arrangement done by my friend Sheryl at Peak Church.  She radiates love in flowers..
So what do you do when you realize your go-to normal, is mostly self-destructive?
As far as I can tell, you have to do something different.
You have to change.
Take a different route, that leads to a different destination.
Go wild.

A while back, I made my first steps towards reaching a different destination.
I framed up some daily habits that I believe are necessary in order for me to be healthy.  
These habits are meant to be non-negotiable because they are the keys to everything else.  
A foundation of sorts.  

In no particular order, they are:
Daily Habits that only work if you actively DO them

Sounds like a good step right?
So how come I was exhausted again?

Well...what happened was.....
I didn't really DO these habits.
When I say that I framed them up...what I really mean is that I held them, 
half-formed in a list within my mind.
I dreamed them.
I thought about them and I wished them into being.
Like really wished.
In the moments in between....like right before I go to sleep at night...
I ruminated on these items.
I told myself I was going to do them but......
 I didn't change anything in my daily life to accommodate these habits.
Nope.
Are you surprised that this didn't work?
That all that wishing and intention
didn't actually cause me to behave differently on a daily basis?

There are many reasons that change is hard.
One of those reasons is that we don't actually do the work it takes to change.
We only do the first step-the dreaming of the change.
And we stop right there for a good long while.

Scott Stabile has a new book #biglove  I think you have to communicate with YOURSELF honestly first-.and that is pretty damn hard.
I wouldn't call this first attempt at a daily habit list unsuccessful.
My mind, body and spirit have operated separately for a long time.
Big changes in my life often begin as a series of little changes or adjustments- that gradually turn the trajectory of my life.
I can't handle a complete 180 turn...at least not with grace.
Sometimes a complete 180 turn is necessary......but.....
it always feels terrible, traumatic and grief-laden. 
I like to avoid trauma, withdrawal and regret.
I'm lazy like that.

What I ultimately did by creating this first attempt was
to highlight these vague ideas floating in an abyss for myself.
I focused on them for a while-
filling them with intention and preparing myself for work.
My dream (to be healthy) is something I want in reality-not just in dreams.
I tried these habits on for size before I committed to them.
That is an important step as well.
Well done I say.

NOW WHAT?

Well...post exhaustion...I committed myself.
I realized that I needed to move from dreaming
into doing.
For these habits to become fact, 
I would have to shift outside of 'Normal' into a kind of 'Wilderness'.

I decided to think about my life, dissect my schedule in a way that removed ambiguity or my own spin.  
Like a project-I took my life down to it's bones. 
with the goal of understanding what 'Normal' really was like.
The real 'Normal'.
Not the fantastical life that might be on display in social media.

I asked myself a lot of questions to obtain supporting facts and data 
from my actual real life.

Questions like:
What does my schedule look like over an average week?
What time do I get up?
What time do I go to bed?
When do I go to work?
When do I get home from work?
What am I eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
How often am I eating out?
How often am I able to work out?
How am I using my time and resources to support ME first?
What have I committed to doing?
Why have I committed to each of those things?
What is bringing me joy?
If I can only accomplish one thing in a day, what do I want that one thing to be?
Can I stack rank my commitments?

This sounds very earnest and scientific and tidy.  
In the movie version of my life, 
this period would have a cute little montage with a snappy soundtrack 
to show just how clear and straightforward this endeavor was.
Hah.  
Reality looked more like me folding laundry 
sitting at the coffee shop, or driving long distances.  
I churned and poked and prodded at these questions for several weeks-
silently letting my busy mind chew on these questions until
the data percolated up in a way that I could face and absorb.
Thank goodness for PTO.

 After shifting through the answers, I wrote down all the things that I am committed to, interested in, excited about, anguished if I don't do.  
Wow.  
No wonder I was tired.
No one is capable of doing the list that I was trying to do.
My 'Normal' expectations and commitments
required a hero of mythic proportions.
How ANY of this was getting done was a mystery.

Not the actual list of expectations.....but a creative representation.


What did a daily schedule look like in 'Normal'?
Here's a glimpse.
.

Daily 'Normal':

Get up at 7:25am...in a groggy, semi-panicked state.
Run around slap-dashedly pulling on clothes and saying good morning 
and trying to greet each family member.
Ask any family members who are awake a random sampling of questions
to ensure that they are in fact awake and 
HAVE WHAT THEY NEED
to meet the day.
No family member actually needs me to do this...
this question barrage is my way of feeling needed.
Forget to grab breakfast...
so double down on coffee to shut up my starving stomach.
Lunch?
Oh crap. 
Forgot that too...which means going out.
Likely it will be large and 
comprised of something fried 
because I'm coming off a caffeine crash.
Since I didn't get to work until 8:30
I will feel guilty and behind the eight ball all day.
I will over-commit and stay later than necessary
because I don't feel focused.
I will likely leave for home about 6pm...again feeling guilty
because I know that home needs me too.
I will still need to work out so I will suggest the kids have a snack.
Post workout, I will work on dinner (with my spouse) and it will be ready around 8pm.
Between chopping,I will quiz my daughter because there is a spelling test tomorrow.
Post dinner, we will all clean the kitchen and then try to do a bedtime routine.
It's 9:30 when the kids can possibly get to bed.
Which is too late but connecting with them is important (am I right?).
I will stay up watching a show or talking with my spouse.
I will check work email (again) and social media (again).
I will probably work on several projects (creative and social) without getting them done.
I will pass out around 12:30 am because I won't be able to do one more thing.
I will assume that I'll make up the sleep deficit on Saturday morning 
(but I won't because there is fun stuff or committed stuff on Saturday morning always).

SHEESH.


No wonder I was exhausted.
I was not adulting.
I was not taking responsibility.
I was simultaneously hoping it would all work out and 
making sure that I never had time to see the disaster of my creation.
Things needed to change.
Actually BE DIFFERENT.
Normal sucks.

Over the rest of my vacation (and through the first few weeks back in real life)
I did several exercises to understand what part of this disaster pile I could shift.
I created a map of what I want my life to look like on a daily, weekly and monthly basis 
(in addition to the daily 4 habits).

DAILY/WEEKLY

I want to feel strong, healthy and vibrant (daily 4 habits fit right here).
I want 3 nights a week where I am not committed.
I want to see my high-schooler before he leaves for the bus at 6:30 am.
I want be able to pay attention to my younger one when she talks non-stop about her latest interest (Pokemon go anyone?).
I want to eat dinner with my family around our table while I still have the energy to laugh.
I want to spend time with my spouse having FUN not just dealing with the business of our life.
Simultaneously, I want to deal with the business of our lives directly and without unnecessary angst.
I want to participate in my community in ways that are self affirming and utilize my gifts.
And finally...I need to create so I can connect with my Creator.


More post-it notes came out.
I started sorting and resorting all the things.
I grouped things under some basic headings.
At the end of the exercise, I had several matrices that helped frame up what is intentional and important to me NOW
and what needs to be shelved until some future state.

One looked like this:


Next I mapped out days of the week to see how I could make the daily things that I want in my life a reality.
It turned out to be really simple.
One little change to rule them all.
Here it is...the magic tool that has turned dreams into reality...

I WAKE UP ON TIME.

Huh?
Yep.  It really is this easy.
And actually this hard.
Basically, to turn my dreams into reality, I start my day differently.
Before, I had a later start time and it was definitely negotiable.
I would have alarms going off at 6:30.
Then 6:45.
And maybe even 7.
I wouldn't actually get out of bed until 7:30 ish.
That started my day off without focus or intention.
I had lots of room for guilt and anxiety to creep in.
It was actually hard to see when I started heading back towards 'Normal'
because everything was kind of out of focus.
I wasn't clear on what I wanted
or what I was willing to change...
so I didn't have to be clear about whether it was working.

That is not the case anymore.
Now...I get up, physically am out of my bed
with my first alarm at 6:10.
It is not negotiable.
It is a foundation I can launch my day from.
It is a gift I have given myself.

That one change has taken me so far outside of 'Normal'.
I'm starting to see the shape of the 'Wilderness'...here's what it looks like for me right now.

Daily Wilderness:

Get up at 6:10.
Go downstairs to see my big kiddo before he goes to school.
Get dressed and grab some breakfast.
There is actually time to make breakfast if I want or actually DRY MY HAIR (small things people)
I might see the younger one but maybe not (she doesn't have to be at school until 9 am)
Take myself and my coffee right to the office....my goal is to be at work by 7:30.
I get at least 2 hours of focus in the office now before everyone starts dropping by to throw wrenches into my planned day.
I can be very focused at work.
I am not just reactive-but I have room to react to crisis moments if I need it.
Lunch may be leftovers or may be out.
But I am no longer starving or scrounging for it.
I leave the office at 4:30 pm.
I am home by 5:15 pm at the latest.
I can either help with dinner or clean up.
 I have time to work out or not.
I have energy to laugh and study.
 I have time before any weeknight commitments to connect.
I am able to work on my personal projects-but I've also eliminated several from the schedule.  They are not a priority.
I go to bed when I am tired (usually by 10) and I wake up without wanting to murder anyone or feeling completely chaotic.
I don't need to sleep in 3 hours late on Saturday because I am not in a sleep deficit.


It's been two months since I've been back from vacation and about 6 weeks since I've started implementing the 'Wilderness' approach.
I've had one night where I was really really tired because I decided to see 
May It Last and then stay up talking to my husband for 2 hours.
I felt tired all the next day until I went to bed at 9 pm for the next two nights.
It was worth it-but also had to be acknowledged and paid back.
That early morning wake-up call is not negotiable and is beautiful in the boundary it draws.

photo from http://www.avettbrothersfilm.com/ Great movie-go see it!

For me, the 'Wilderness' means I am planning and taking responsibility for my needs.
It's avoiding my 'Normal' chaos and over-commitment which leads to exhaustion.
It requires me to face down the minutiae in my life
and be a ruthless editor.
People have asked me to take on new commitments.
I have said NO because I am not willing to give up any existing ones.
I am at max capacity 
(so that I can have a minimum of 3 uncommitted nights in every week).

I love the Wilderness.
I actually have time to deal with life when it happens
and I am getting what I need.
I am NOT EXHAUSTED.
I am walking around in a new place-
probably for the first time ever.
Perfection is not the goal....meeting my needs daily is the goal.
I make it happen-or I don't. 
I am finally...maybe....probably...adulting.
And it is WILD.