School Days

back to schoolToday is the first day of school in Long Beach, CA. Such excitement in the air. Such traffic in the streets. Such adorable first day pictures on Facebook. I remember so clearly how much I loved the first day of school. There was the nervous anticipation in elementary school of finding out who my teacher would be (in the old days they didn’t tell you until that morning), and even more important, which of my friends would be in my class.

Once a year I got new clothes (ordered from the Sears catalog), so there was the excitement of staying up late the night before to pick out the perfect outfit, and then picking out a different one, and then wait, maybe that one is even better. Laying the clothes out neatly on my bed and crawling in carefully so I wouldn’t disturb them while I slept. The picking-out-clothes ritual persisted through high school and college and even now there are glimmers of it in my life–before a big party or interview or a first date (or second date, or third…). And even more than new clothes, there was the excitement of new pencils, new notebooks, a new book bag… To this day I prefer shopping for stationery supplies over clothes. (And I once actually had stock in Staples. But I digress.)

More nostalgically than my own school days, I miss my kids getting ready for their first day of school. The nervous anticipation after a summer of no responsibility, the ritual of picking out the perfect outfit (no uniforms for my kids), the first day of school photos, the excitement of seeing their friends after a long summer. My own excitement to get the house back for a few hours a day. So maybe that’s why I’m a little teary today. It’s a poignant Throwback Wednesday.

Happy school days; Happy birthday, Ken; Happy new outfits (and pencils) for everyone.

Posted in Gratitude, Love | 2 Comments

Mensa and Migraines and Math (oh my!)

SatanmathOn the urging of my friend Steven, I recently decided to take the Mensa test. I was on the fence about it for a long time, primarily because after 30 years of not needing math other than basic investing, calculating a waiter’s tip, and grocery shopping (which price per unit is better?), I knew that math was going to be my downfall. But, I thought, if there’s not THAT much math, maybe my strengths in the other areas will even it out. And if not, well, I have lived a very full life thus far without Mensa.

I have been ill for every major test I have ever taken. When I was in high school and took the SAT, I had the flu. I took the English section first, then Spanish, and by the time I took the math, I must have had a fever of 103. At the end of the math section, I started filling in the answers with abcddcbaabc, etc. just to finish the exam. And then I spent the next two days in bed. I managed to pull off somewhere around 500. Not great, but not terrible. Imagine how I could have done without the guesswork! Maybe. Realistically, this was probably the best I could have done anyway, considering I never went past basic high school geometry, and in that class I got a D both semesters (I sparkled with Cs in Algebra I the year before). My combined SAT scores were about 30 points too low to qualify for Mensa, but I did get into UCLA.

When I needed to take the GREs after college, I hadn’t had math since that ill-fated geometry class my sophomore year of high school seven years earlier, so I spent three months of Saturdays in UCLA’s Powell Library with a GRE prep book and taught myself how to do the math, including all sorts of algebra I’d never had before. Miraculously, I actually learned how to do it, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel stupid when it came to math. On the GRE math, I got 520, and considering the aforementioned math history, I felt pretty good about that. Oh, and did I mention that the flu and I were bed partners for that exam as well? My combined math/verbal GREs were too low for Mensa (unless they used analytical and verbal, and then I’d be golden), but they did get me into USC.

Fast forward to 2016. Last Saturday was test day. When I woke up at 5am on Saturday (far too early) with just the slightest headache, I thought I would head it off at the pass and took an Excedrin. Which seemed to work for a little while. When I got up for real an hour later, I took some ibuprofen. No migraine yet, but I could tell it might be coming. I had some coffee. That usually helps. Just in case, I took one last Excedrin on my way to the test. I did not take my usual migraine medication because I didn’t think I was actually going to get a migraine, and because it makes me loopy, and because I then have to pee every 15 minutes. TMI?

If I had been smart, I would have waited and taken the test another day. But I had already waited three months and thought that I would be OK. I have had headaches many days and gotten through the work I needed to do with little misadventure. By the time I was sitting in the test, however, the side effects of the drugs had kicked in without any actual relief. At first I was OK. A little shaky, a little headachy. A little spacy. I could do this!

The picture portions of the test (what item is different? what is the same?) were pretty easy. And although the pictures were a little blurry (and very tiny–not for older eyes!), I think I got them almost all correct. Three sections down. No problem. [As a side note–it was interesting to me that this test must be 40 years old. They had pictures of things that I could barely identify (I think that’s a slide rule… wow, a dial telephone with an attached handset!… what is that tube thing supposed to be?), so I can just imagine what the 15-to-30-year-olds in the room were able to identify.]

And then came the math, along with what was unfortunately now a migraine. There were two sections of math word problems that there was no way I was going to be able to finish, even if I could think properly, which I couldn’t. So there I was, head pounding, words blurring, math completely escaping me, if it had ever been there in the first place (special thanks to my daughter and Steven who tried to prep me a little). All I could do was think about my high school SATs and the abcddceba. I didn’t go that route this time, and tried to answer what I could, but I knew there was no hope that I did anything better than terrible on that section. There was another section as well that involved coins and money, and with my fuzzy brain, it took me a little too long to understand what they were asking me to do. By the time I got it and scrambled through the questions, I ran out of time with two left. So I guessed (no penalty in guessing).

The last three sections were vocabulary, analogies, and comprehension. I’m pretty sure I nailed them all (language is my thing), even though I was now having a surreal out-of-body experience. It was really quite fascinating. In a disconcerting sort of way.

There was also a second test (if you pass either, you can be in Mensa), which had 50 questions to be answered in 12 minutes. You were asked to do as many as you could, with no expectation (or so they said) that you would finish them all. The questions were also supposed to get harder as they went on, so they recommended we didn’t skip around. They were all “fill in the blank.” I figured out pretty quickly that I should answer all the language-based questions and skip right over the math. I finished all of those questions and went back and answered a few of the math, but by that time my head was filled with pain and cotton.

Migraines suck. It feels like they suck half my life away as well. It’s really too bad I got one on test day, and I imagine that the smarter, more Mensa thing to do would have been to postpone the test. But I didn’t because I didn’t realize until too late that it would get worse instead of better. Ahhhhh. Hindsight.

My biggest disappointment is that I’m not going to be able to be a Brunch Davidian. I have no idea who they are, but who doesn’t want to be part of a group with a name like that? And Steven, I’m sorry that I’m not going to be able to join you for Mensa game or veggie nights. We’ll just have to stay Facebook friends.

 

Update 8.1.16: It turns out, after all that, I actually passed… Maybe math skills are  overrated after all.

Posted in Gratitude | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Therefore Choose Love

When I was in college, my motto was “Therefore Choose Life,” a phrase that comes from Deuteronomy 30:19 (“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live”). I was very much about helping people see that it will get better; that failing was not a reason to despair, that if you were afraid of something, then imagine the worst thing that would happen (if you did fail a class, for example,) and come up with scenarios about how to handle it. I spent a lot of time unofficially counseling my friends and roommates. They told me it helped.

When I taught writing at USC, I did a unit on suicide. It included Death of a SalesmanRichard Cory (both Paul Simon’s song and the Edwin Arlington Robinson poem it came from), and other pieces that I can’t remember, and we would discuss alternatives to suicide when things seemed bleak. Maybe this was because I had a friend in high school who committed suicide. [Just thinking about him now makes we teary. He was the first person who tried to introduce me to the wonders of Tolkien, but as a 12-year-old girl, I wasn’t going there.] I taught at USC when I was in my early twenties. By the time I was in my early thirties, my focus had expanded to love. God is Love. Love all things. Choose Life; Choose Love. And I tried to make that my central purpose in living. Having two fantastic children made it easy. Having a difficult marriage made it hard. I read as much as I could and even focused my Ph.D. on love and social justice in literature.

It wasn’t until I was in my forties and out of my marriage that I think I really started to understand Love and Forgiveness. I again read as much as I could, I listened to lectures, I absorbed philosophies, and I tried to live what I believed. A challenge to be sure, as I am inherently a reactive person. I don’t get mad very often, but I get very frustrated when things don’t go right, or when people are idiots. And people are often idiots. I have very little patience with people who are illogical or make crazy choices. And of course, that’s choices that I think are crazy. 😉 And I have little tolerance for people who are intolerant. So it has been with great interest that I have been observing myself these past few years move more and more into a place of love and acceptance. People are who they are. The world moves on and changes. And the universe is filled with possibilities.

I think that some of these personal changes really started to take place in 2011 when I dated two different men who helped me grow into the person I am hoping to become. The first gave me the book The Art of Possibility, which I think is a beautiful way of approaching life. It reflected back to me exactly how I feel about interacting with others, and it also illuminated that I make choices out of fear, something I wanted to stop doing. The second man gave me The Four Agreements which, while not astounding in its format, did help me understand that I do take things personally, and I do make assumptions. I hearkened back to that time in my life when I worked with others asking, “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” and thought that maybe I should start applying the wisdom to myself.

So I have been thinking lately about where I am now, at 53. How I try to lead with love, how I am not generally cynical, and how I, like Anne Frank (and despite the terrible things going on in the world), still want to think the best of people. The catchword of the 20-teens seems to be “mindfulness.” I make mindful decisions about my job, my eating, my friends, my shopping, and my social activities. At least I do the best I can. And underlying this mindfulness, I hope, is love.  I believe that love is a powerful motivator and an effective healer, and that we should always try to make choices that bring more love into our lives.

I know this all sounds very ooh la la and corny, but it’s really what I believe. That the world is a place of love if we look for it. That our life choices can align with our spiritual beliefs. That we are all part of a community of love, especially if we surround ourselves with people who love us. As Joshua Fields Millburn says, “You can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you.” So true. Every day we have the opportunity to make choices. I Choose Life; I Choose Love.

Posted in Gratitude, Love, Simplicity | Leave a comment

Birds of a Feather

DSCN5668 In March, I had a mama dove nesting in a hanging planter on my porch in full view of my large picture window. In the past few years, birds have frequently used the coconut husks from the planter to line their nests, but this year, one of the doves got smart and decided it would be easier just to make her nest in the planter. My daughter and I watched as the fat mama bird sat on the eggs (sometimes the papa bird would come and relieve her), then one day we were thrilled to see baby chicks in the nest. We watched as the chicks got larger and larger, as they tried to flap their wings, as they pushed their boundaries. Then I was fortunate enough to actually see them leave the nest and fly away. It was bittersweet. The nest remained empty for about a week, and then one day I looked out the window and saw that another mama bird was sitting in the nest! This was clearly not the same bird. And sure enough, when a papa bird came to relieve her, we could see two tiny eggs in the nest. I guess the first mama told the second mama what a great nesting site this was. And I have to agree. The second group of hatchlings flew away a few days ago, and it is probably too much to hope that a third mama will come take her place, but I’m certain the word has spread, and I can’t wait to see who arrives next year.

I think the birds came into my life as a metaphor. For what exactly, I’m not sure. There are so many clichés: seize the day; if you love something, let it go; everything changes; accept things as they are.  Perhaps the idea that when you make the best of the situation you have, then new opportunities will come your way. But you have to tell a friend.

DSCN5654

Bonus! This beauty was in my yard when I was snapping pictures of the doves.

Update on the birds (Late June 2016) Believe it or not, bird family number three took residence in my hanging basket and the latest chicks just hatched! I look forward to next year and the renewal of life.

Posted in Gratitude, Love, Simplicity | 2 Comments

Feeling Uncharacteristically Political…

The first time I became aware of Elizabeth Warren was when she was a guest on The Daily Show in 2009. I listened to what she had to say about finance reform, turned to Ken, and said, “I would vote for her if she ever ran for President.” At that time, I was just as convinced as I had been in 1998 that Hillary Clinton would never be elected President (especially after her failed 2008 campaign) because she just had too much baggage. Fast forward 7 years, and we all know where we are today: Warren is now a Senator, and there are many others who would also vote for her; I was dead wrong about Hillary (who now has even more baggage); and I’m more convinced than ever that Elizabeth Warren would make an excellent President, despite her lack of experience (what experience did Obama have, after all?)

I was very excited when Warren ran for Senate and won against Scott Brown in 2012. And by that time, she was a liberal darling, which made me happy and hopeful. I was more than disappointed when Warren kept insisting that she wasn’t going to run in 2016, so I felt strangely validated to read an opinion piece in the Orange County Register (of all places!) a few weeks back called, “Warren could have averted Democrats’ ‘hold your nose’ election.” The article says pretty much everything I feel about the Democratic nominees (Bernie is a strident, one-note candidate; Hillary has done so much I can’t feel good about). Although I encourage you to read the whole thing, this paragraph pretty much sums it up: “’Americans are not satisfied with their choices in 2016,’” concluded Raymond D. Strother, a political consultant who worked on Bill Clinton’s gubernatorial campaigns and Gary Hart’s presidential run. “’The solution for Democrats in this “hold your nose election” was always in front of them, Elizabeth Warren. I would call her the Hill/Bern candidate, a perfect blend of policy and integrity. She would have blown away the field.’” Sigh. Oh well.

Thursday in Politico.com, I read another article about Elizabeth Warren which makes me again hopeful: “Between Warren’s powerful fundraising chops and the potential for a Donald Trump candidacy to push Senate seats into Democratic hands, the next Senate could see a whole new power bloc with Warren at the head.” Some people speculate that Clinton will pick Warren as a running mate, (somewhat doubtful, I think, and I don’t know if that would even be a good idea), but anyone looking at the aftermath of the 2014 elections (2010 really) can have no doubt that Warren can probably do more good at this point by helping Democrats take back the Senate and getting them to come out to vote.

It is a crazy election year. This past week shocked Republicans and Democrats alike when Ted Cruz and John Kasich both dropped out of the race. I hope that galvanizes even the most jaded American to vote instead of sitting out in protest on election day. In my fantasies, someday we’ll have to choose between two excellent candidates who won’t throw America under the bus (think Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits in The West Wing). In the meantime, I’m supporting Elizabeth because she gives me hope that there’s a future to believe in.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

Whither Thou Goest…

Although I started this blog with a particular purpose about the challenges of simplifying my life after a lifetime, I have been sidetracked. My friend Lisa says it’s time to start writing my blog again, so here goes. My life on my sleeve.

My post-marriage 8-year relationship was diagnosed as terminal last September. Once again out of work, Ken couldn’t find a local job in his field, and we both knew that if he had to leave, I wasn’t going with him, essentially ending our engagement. My children are here, my job is here, my parents are within a reasonable driving distance ( a crucial fact), and I have been in my home for 25 years. So when he was offered a job in Santa Rosa (450 miles away) in March, we both knew it was just a matter of weeks and not years that we had remaining together. Sometimes, love is not enough.

Ironically, I have always hoped that I would eventually move to Northern California. As I have alluded to in previous posts, I’m pretty sure that they (whoever “they” are) are my people. I considered going for about a day, but looking at my newly-planted garden and my newly-graduated daughter and the newly-hatched chicks in the hanging planter on my porch, I knew I was going to stay. Not that these things are inherently important in themselves, but what they represent is important–the essential things and the life I have built in Southern California. It will mean a new future. But as scary as that is, isn’t it what we were looking for anyway? Even if we didn’t plan for it to happen in this particular way…

“But wait!” I hear you say. “What about following your beloved to the ends of the earth (or wine country)? What about whither thou goest… (overlooking that this was never a romantic sentiment)? How can you just let him go like that? Can’t you meet halfway on weekends? Can’t you just keep connected via Skype?” And those are, indeed, all excellent questions.

Which leads me to soulmates and deal breakers. I want so badly to believe in that one true love (which maybe I found once, but the timing didn’t work out, and that’s another story), but my own experiences so far have taught me otherwise. I spent 19 years with one person, but knew walking down the aisle that it was probably a mistake, so that’s definitely on me. I wanted to believe that he was The One. We had so much in common. There was so much promise. But at the end of the day—at the end of the marriage—what made us great friends (and we should have just stayed that way) wasn’t enough to overcome all that was seriously lacking as life partners.

And now, after 8 1/2 years (with a dramatic pause in 2011), I find myself at the end of another relationship with someone who may not have been The One, but who could have been “the one who is good enough.” If that, in fact, is good enough.

An aside: One of the more memorable dates I went on during the aforementioned pause was with a man named Steven (and he gave me permission to talk about him here). We connected either on Jdate or OKCupid; I’m not sure. We had a tremendous amount in common, but we didn’t pursue it; I don’t remember why. Perhaps because the geography was too difficult (South County!) or we just didn’t click or he had a cat–a deal breaker for me, unfortunately. He also inspired me to look into Mensa, which I did briefly but also didn’t pursue (maybe I will now that I’m going to have some time on my hands). Anyway, for some reason, we stayed friends on Facebook, and I enjoy his posts. And his friends’ posts. He gives me faith that there are still smart, menschy men out there.

All that was a lead-in to talk about an excellent review Steven wrote of a book called Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Economics I Learned from Online Dating. There was so much in the review (read it yourself), but one of the primary takeaways for me was: “…for all practical purposes, it’s impossible to find your soulmate, you’ll have to settle for the best you can do, which is to find the best one available…The key is knowing when to stop, when you’ve found ‘the one who is good enough.’” Steven goes on to quote the author: “you’ll know you’ve found the one who is good enough when you can say, ‘My partner is truly wonderful. If I kept looking, I could probably do better. But I have to earn a living, make dinner, practice the piano, and do a bunch of other stuff. So I’m going to settle for this person and move on with life. It could certainly be a lot worse.’” After reading the review, I found myself thinking a lot about the reality of the one who is good enough.

There are many subtleties to the one who is good enough…  The one who is good enough to dance with, and share most meals with, but not to share living space with. The one who is good enough to watch John Oliver with, and share political discussions with, but not to spend every night with. The one who is good enough, but do I really have to spend Passover with his family? Ken is as close as I have gotten to the one who is good enough for most things. And he feels the same way about me. But does that remain true if we live 450 miles apart? Does he then become “the one who is good enough to keep me off internet dating sites and instill in me a strong sense of commitment, but who I won’t follow to Sonoma County?” Can you love someone and not want to follow them to a new destiny? And now that we are faced with this new destiny, maybe we don’t want to stay with someone who is only “good enough”?

So back to soulmates and deal breakers and the above excellent questions, to which I add one of my own: what happens when you’ve met the one who is good enough, overlooked the things that had potential to be deal breakers because everything else was pretty close (and he has overlooked your shortcomings as well), and then he breaks the deal? What happens then? Is that a different kind of deal breaker? Or do you just have to deal with the fact that the deal has been broken?

What if he suddenly started smoking, or got a cat, or truly believed that Trump was the best candidate? I would never start a relationship with someone in Northern California, and neither would he, so is it unreasonable that I don’t want to stay in a relationship with someone who has chosen to move (albeit unwillingly) and doesn’t plan to come back? Are we crazy to call things off? Or are we crazier to stay together when we both might now find The One?

And I do still believe in The One. My parents have been married for 55 years. My ex-in-laws were married for 65 years. And although I won’t have that history, I still have irrational faith that “he” is out there.

Another blog piece Steven wrote is called Exhausted; it’s about internet dating, and dating in the 21st century in general, and what happens when you’ve exhausted all the matches. It moved me for a number of reasons, and not just because I was one of the women that he was talking about. I thought about it in terms of my daughter, who at 23 is considering online dating, and I thought about it for myself at 53 as I ponder whether I’ll have the energy to go back into the fray. Because even the thought of dating again truly is exhausting.

But I am not bitter. I am resigned. I wish Ken much happiness as he transitions into his new life. I will miss him. I am also deeply sad for what we are giving up, and I mourn the loss of my “good enough” relationship as it moves to the Great Beyond on Sunday. May it rest in peace.

Posted in Love | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Essentialism

I mentioned a few posts back that I first learned about Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism from one of Joel’s Value of Simple podcasts. I have since finished the book, and I loved it. So much so, that I plan to buy it for each of my children for Chanukah this year. I really wish that I had read it (or something like it, or even known about the concept) 30 years ago when I was making important decisions, like who to date and jobs to take, because I think it would have changed my life. His way of approaching what is essential and how an essentialist views the world, is excellent advice.

If I had read something like Essentialism when I was young, let’s say just out of college, would I have made different choices about my life? My mate? My jobs? I think I would have. So here’s to moving forward and making choices based on what I know now, because as my friend Stacey said to me yesterday (or something closely resembling this), “everything we do gets us to now and we get to use that knowledge moving forward.”

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Less Cluttered is More Relaxed

I love this time of year. The air is crisp but not yet cold (I live in SoCal), the dawn light is available to me in the morning when I walk the dog, and although I hate that it gets dark in the evening so suddenly early (that one hour makes a big difference), the cooler temperature encourages me to walk Buttercup earlier, put on a pot of soup or make homemade tomato sauce, and curl up with a book while Shira does her homework. And this is what being uncluttered on the outside allows me to do better: relax more and enjoy my time after work because I don’t have the constant nagging feeling that I should be tidying or cleaning or organizing. Less cluttered is just more relaxed.

That said, my living room isn’t a minimalist paradise. It definitely has its share of stuff. But it’s all stuff I want. Things that are important to me. Pictures of my kids, souvenirs from trips, music on the piano, blankets on the sofa. My adult kids’ rooms, they are another story…but everything that is in our shared living space is supposed to be there (usually). And that is living simply for me.

 

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Difficulty in Decision Making

“I know what my decision is,
Which is not to decide.”
On the Steps of the Palace, Stephen Sondheim

I read an article in this month’s Real Simple Magazine about Making Decisions that has gotten me thinking about how our decision-making process affects how we approach uncluttering and simplifying. The article, which interviewed psychology professor Barry Schwartz, says that there are two types of decision makers: “maximizers” and “satisficers.” That a maximizer looks at every possible choice to determine the strongest contender, and that a satisficer goes with “good enough.” The article states that satisficers are happier with their choices overall and that they also have more free time, since they’re not laboring over all the possible alternatives.

I didn’t have to think too hard about what I am. Definitely a maximizer. I completely agonize over decisions, sometimes to my own detriment. Not so much about which restaurant should I go to, but which event to attend, which dish to order, whether to get rid of that pair of pants, whether to go on that vacation, even whether to get married. And although I have mellowed as I’ve gotten older (some decisions just aren’t that important), there is a running joke (joke?) in my family about my ambivalence about almost everything. It isn’t really that I’m ambivalent; it’s just that I see the good and bad in everything, and that makes choosing very difficult. It’s a great quality in an ethicist and discussion moderator, but not so much when cleaning out my closet.

Before reading this article, I never really thought about the fact that being a maximizer is definitely going to make the simplifying process harder than it is for a satisficer. I just knew that decisions seemed to be easier for some people than for others. So maybe it’s more than I just can’t make a decision about whether to donate that coat (I collect coats like other women collect shoes); maybe it’s because as a maximizer, I am too caught up in making the best possible choice when just letting it go is going to be good enough.

The article states that choosing “good enough” isn’t the same as settling, and that’s reassuring, because who wants to settle? But it also reaffirms the angst that we maximizers go through in making sometimes even small decisions.

So how do we break out of it? Make a series of small decisions and realize that there isn’t a “right” answer. Just keep practicing and it will get easier. Do I give the coat away? Order the pasta or the salad? Stay in the job or move on? Ultimately, we have to have faith that all decisions lead to the next step on our journey. If we keep the coat, we have one more option for winter but less room in our closet. Maybe the next time we purge, we’ll be willing to let it go, or maybe come winter we will be happy we have it. Or maybe we will keep it and someone needy will come along and we’ll be glad we kept it so we could now give it away. Pasta or salad? OK, that one truly doesn’t matter (unless you’re on a diet). Stay in the job or move on? Maybe this job will lead to opportunities down the line. Or maybe leaving the job will do the same. Since we can’t predict the future, sometimes we have to have faith in the universe and just choose.

So with this new information, maybe the next time I have to make a decision, I will remember that the important thing isn’t so much the decision but the decision to decide. Accepting that there is rarely only one right answer should make the entire process that much easier. I hope that is the case. I’ll let you know.

Posted in Simplicity | 1 Comment

Shadow and Light

IMG_2686I was thinking this morning as I was listening to Joel talk about SimpleREV 2015 and
walking Buttercup in the crisp clean November air, that I want my posts to focus more on the spiritual aspects of what I get out of simplicity, in addition to the day-to-day advantages of less clutter. And as I turned my calendar over (three days late) to November and read the new month’s quote by Rumi about lying under the tree of awe (You must have shadow and light source both. Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe), the universe reinforced this for me.

The world is a wonderful and mystical place filled with beauty and cruelty and despair and miracles. It is a never-ending mix of shadow and light and never is this clearer than at this time of year. When we turn the clocks back, no longer saving daylight, we are suddenly more aware than ever that everything is dark clouds and silver linings.

In commenting on my previous post, “But Now I Need It,Emily Torres told me about The Minimalists’ rule of 20/20 (I like them, but sometimes it’s clear they aren’t mothers winking-face). Reading that post led me to think about whether it was actually the cost of the items or the availability of the items which was truly keeping me from letting go of them, or wishing I had hung on to them. And then in looking back on it, I realized that wasn’t really the point. The point was why am I stressing about it in the first place? It’s just stuff. They are just tights. And then in reading the Rumi quote this morning, it occurred to me that getting hung up on the needing/wanting is what blocks me from letting go and focusing on the shadows and light.

Shira as LinkClean garage, cluttered garage; is either way really that important, especially if I don’t plan to park there anyway? More important, does a clean garage/kitchen table/spare bedroom better represent the person I am or who I am trying to become? It goes deeper than “what will people think about me when they see my awful garage?” It’s closer to “what does this say about who I am and what I think is important?” How I felt when I didn’t have the tights available when “just in case” became a reality [her costume worked out great, by the way] is more a symptom of my own brand of self worth. I should have kept them. I should have known that some day I might need them. They weren’t taking up that much space. Again, that’s not really the point. The point is really that I didn’t need them in that moment, or potentially ever, and I let them go into the universe where someone needier can use them.

Shadow and light, giving and receiving, letting the spirit of generosity flow. That’s what it’s really about. And that’s what I will try more to focus on going forward. Does that object give me joy? Maybe. Will it give someone else more joy? Yes. And that’s the answer I was looking for. That’s what I need to keep in mind. That living in simplicity is also about living in generosity–a truth that isn’t always easy for me to remember, but a truth that in the remembering will make it far more possible to lay my head under the tree of awe.

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