Friday, January 13, 2017

Forget Diamonds

... leggings are a girl's best friend.

Christmas is over. The kids are back in school. Life returns to however you define "normal" and continues.

I'm not a huge fan of making a so-called new year's resolution. The standard "lose weight, quit smoking, completely change your life" resolutions rarely succeed - even though the after-Christmas advertisements cater to - and even promise - the success of said resolutions. But I see every new day as an opportunity to do something different or set a new goal.

If I had to pick a resolution for the year, I would choose to take better care of myself. In the last few years, I have learned just how precious health is. I don't take "bad" care of myself per se, but there's always room for improvement. Caring for me involves both body and mind, loving and accepting who I am, and making peace with the past.

I first stumbled on the concept of "self-care" in charting out my healing path. As a logical thinker, I thought I could plan how to improve my health, create a flow chart of steps, and implement it. Life rarely follows a plan. I dodged obstacle after obstacle until I had a moment of clarity. I was separate from everything going on in my life. Life has a way of dealing with itself - issues are resolved and problems are solved - and life goes on. I didn't think I agreed with that statement until I realized there was only one thing in this life I could control. My thoughts.

Much of my anxiety stemmed from the expectations I'd placed on other people (and the consequent disappointment). I believe in treating people like I want to be treated, but the reality is people often do not share this sentiment. Whatever the reason, it is completely irrelevant, I have had to alter beliefs instilled in me since childhood. When you drill down to the basics, everyone has their own problems and you can't expect anyone to be there for you. Take this statement matter-of-factly. I'm not jaded or negative or cynical. My eyes have been opened to the truth. No one cares. Right or wrong. When I reported my assault to the local police, I had expected them to investigate. When I became ill and missed several months of services, I had expected my church family of nine years to reach out. My neighbours never brought me casseroles. My friends never sent me flowers. I hadn't expected this, but these are things I would've done. Not everyone is a decent human being. We live among assholes. And although I've come to accept this, it won't change how I treat other people. So when I say "I don't care" I actually mean I've released all the heavy expectations I'd placed on other people and I'm okay with that.

I've made a hobby, of sorts, of reading self-help books. Some concepts I believe and others I struggle with. In particular, Byron Katie's Loving What Is was a tough sell for me. I get the futility of arguing with reality, but I still protest the acceptance of it. I can identify the thoughts which trouble me, but I have difficulty turning them around. I can appreciate her personal experiences, but I don't feel she has the necessary education and training in mental health issues to advise and treat others. My husband seemed to instantly understand her process, and maybe I will come to the same understanding at a later time.

Until then I hold to the firm belief that the human body has the ability to heal itself. I will be healthy again. TBD. The human body is a miraculous, self-healing machine. When you cut your skin, a scab forms. When you break a bone, it fuses back together. We are equipped with built-in disease fighters - physical barriers (like skin), the immune system, inflammation, and fever - which help ward off infection and promote healing. The exact formula for healing is an unknown, but somewhere in me, there is an answer.

I see every day as a new beginning, a clean slate. I can only experience today. The past molds you into the person you are now, but the past is a period of time which was and cannot be changed. Likewise, it is unknown what lies in store for tomorrow or 2017 or any moment which belongs to the future. We are, and always will be, part of the now.

The reality is I am writing my blog, wearing a comfy hoodie and leggings, hoping my musings will be relevant to someone out there. They are certainly meaningful to me.

Friday, January 6, 2017

I call it "Clutter Patrol"

But what I really mean is a good, old-fashioned purge of my worldly possessions. I have a list of all the rooms in my (thankfully small) house with the good intention of removing the clutter in said rooms.

My plans to "Clutter Patrol" my house have been about as futile as my new year's resolutions. So far. Old stuff goes out, but new stuff quickly replaces it. Over Christmas, I watched the documentary Minimalism. Probably not the best time of year to watch a program about living with less stuff... with opened presents still lying under the tree... and Lego sets in many stages of progress all over the floor.  We exchange presents with family and friends. A present is a physical symbol of "I care about you" and I'm not going to reject this thoughtful practice. But we have a lot of stuff. This documentary made me question if we have too much. I realized when new stuff comes in, old stuff must go out as opposed to our current practice of keeping everything. I watched the documentary on the TV in my room with my closet stuffed full of clothes (and other things... like empty boxes and my wedding dress) in plain view. That was the first stop in our purging journey. Why was I holding onto shirts with stains and socks with holes? Why did I keep clothes I hadn't worn in a decade? Because of the slight chance I may wear them again? <shudder>

I am a pack rat. I hide pieces of cardboard behind my bookshelf. I keep empty boxes. Just in case. I have baskets of random computer wires. I have my elementary school report cards. I have boxes and boxes of greeting cards... wedding shower, wedding, baby shower, birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day... I can't let go. And my children are the same way. They keep sticks and rocks and pieces of paper and toys from McDonald's and anything we don't want anymore ends up in their rooms too. Bookshelves. Plastic containers. And I can't fault them one bit.

Minimalism helps reduce your life's excess so you can focus on the pursuit of happiness, fulfillment, and freedom. Who wouldn't want that? The concept can be customized to be as unique as you are. Everyone has a different idea about what stuff they need. I have realized I have more than I need.

All this is changing. I have started to reduce my belongings. Room by room. Area by area. Drawer by drawer. I predict it will be a long journey. Paved with VCRs and VHS tapes and books we'll never read again. At this point, it seems like a daunting and overwhelming task. But I've taken the important first step.

This brand-new year of 2017 will be different in my house. We will simplify our lives by reducing our belongings. We will ask ourselves if we really need something before it lands in the shopping cart. At the end of the day, we will still have stuff, but only stuff we need and want and actually use. And, as my house de-clutters, so will my mind.

Finding happiness with less. What a concept!