I Better Live a Long Time

I must possess at least 6-7 books about how to be organized.  If I ever purge, sort and organize my books into  categories, I’ll know for sure and be able to list the titles and authors.  Hasn’t happened yet.

I worked on my office this afternoon.  I emptied two big baskets (left from another attempt to organize) full of books and magazines and paper.  Don’t use baskets.  As my organizer-friend, Beth, pointed out one time, out of sight is out of mind.  But it’s still there.

I sorted and purged and filed.  I re-shelved books.  And I didn’t move from those baskets to sorting and purging my books.  I controlled my low-grade ADD.

In one of the baskets, I found this book:  Organizing From the Inside Out: The Foolproff System for Organizing Your Home, Your Office, and Your Life by Julie Morgenstern.  She had me at the title.  I flipped through it.  Page corners are turned down.  That means I was reading without a pen to underline with, probably in bed.  A bookmark stuck out of the middle–I guess I never finished studying it.

Believe me when I tell you, I already KNOW this stuff.  All the books come down to the same thing:

Get rid of the majority of my shit.

Find a place for things I love.

Don’t buy anything new unless I give something away.

Put my shit away in its designated place (labeled?) every day.

I get it.

And I also get that it feels good to see my cleaned out corner off to my right and all the paper in my recycling trashcan.  I stacked paper that was only printed on one side on top of my (broken) printer  to use for printing rough drafts.

The problem is what’s left.  I start an organizing project well.  I control my need to do the whole room straight through until it’s done.  I don’t have the desire or the stamina to work that hard anymore. anyway.

Today fear kicked me into gear.  Did those baskets hold something important that I should have taken care of weeks ago?  The paper breathed on me every time i sat down at my desk.  I couldn’t write.  I couldn’t work on a project for church.

Now, my desk is clear.  For me anyway.  The (very) few papers that need attention are in a nice wooden inbox behind my laptop.  So I know they are there, but they’re not breathing so loud anymore.  And I am writing.

I feel good.

The retired man I live with came upstairs,  looked around the room, and said “Doesn’t look any better to me.”

Did I ask?

I think I’ll have a Hershey’s kiss and go down to the basement where piles of laundry wait patiently.  You know, if got rid of some of my clothes, I wouldn’t be able to ignore laundry for so long because I would run out of clothes.  Instead I wear all the stuff I don’t love and then have to wash them before I can get rid of them.

I’ll never be finished.  I’m afraid that when I die my poor daughters will be left to deal with my clutter.  Because I’m damn sure not putting this house on the market and moving.

In July, 2010, I wrote a blog post titled “I’m Workin’ On It”  about my friend’s idea to make buttons for all of us to flash when questioned by others about progress on tasks.  In bright letters big enough to see easily my button would say “I’m workin’ on it.”

So, dear daughters–

I’m workin’ on it. Pray I live a long time.

Published in: on March 21, 2013 at 6:27 pm  Comments (11)  
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Movin’ On

I don’t do resolutions anymore.  They’re always the same anyway.  Eat better.  Move my body more.  Take time for myself.  Stand up straight and do right.  Don’t lie.  Don’t cheat.  Don’t be afraid.

I do reflect on the year just past, though.

January 11, 2012:  Our 2nd grandchild (Margaret Jane–Maggie) was born.

February 25, 2012 (and all year long!):  Our first grandchild (Adaline) was 2.

April 2, 2012:  Our 3rd grandchild (Atticus), Adaline’s little brother, was born.

March and September, 2012:  Maggie had 2 heart surgeries and is all fixed and just like any other delightful almost-one-year-old.  (Thank you, Dr. Mill, at UNC Children’s Hospital!)

April-December 31, 2012 (and forever):  Adaline and Atticus pushed their parents to new levels of love, patience, and sleep deprivation.

January 1-December 31, 2012 (and as long as we live):  We loved them all.

2012 stretched and challenged me physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

So what were the gifts in this full year?

I have 3 healthy, happy, amazing grandchildren!  Christmas 2011 we had one.  Now we have 3.  Mind boggling and tiring and such fun, all at the same time.

I finally forgave myself for not being a “good enough” mother.  My daughters showed me that I WAS a good enough mom and that each day with two  little ones was hard.  A wound I carried in my heart for a long time starting healing.

I have 2 amazing, strong, loving daughters who are much better mothers than I was.  Luckily, we all mostly agree on how to parent.  My younger daughter, mother of 2, coaches her older sister and tells her, “It will get better.”

My husband and I learned to be more gentle with each other.  He is a good father and the best grandfather.  We are aware of time passing and our bodies changing and a drive to miss nothing!  We take care of each other.

I watch how we help our girls (both are close by) and I am painfully aware that my parents were never able to give me the same support and presence.  Now I know how much they missed and I am sad for all of us.

I value friends (and a therapist) who let me be honest and vulnerable.  I cannot do the hard stuff alone.  I tried that this year…again…and it didn’t work…again.

In 2012, I lost a sense of balance between my needs and my family’s needs.  In 2013, I want to do better.  I want to take care of myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I want to be alive for a long time!

I want to keep learning and growing and stretching and trying new things.  I want to play with my grandchildren.  Their laughs make everything else in the world go away and I am in the moment.  That’s the best gift of all.

I am very grateful.  Many times I had the sense that all of us were held in God’s (roomy) lap.  We were surrounded by prayers and we felt the strength and support and love of our community.

I’m not the same person I was on January 1, 2012.  Are you?  Is anyone?

Not My Table, Hon

 The most helpful thing I grasped while waitressing was that some tables were my responsibility and some were not.  A waitress gets overwhelmed if she has too many tables, and no one gets good service.

In my life, I have certain things to take care of: my children, my relationships, my work, one or two causes, and myself.

That’s it.  Other things are not my table.

I would go nuts if I tried to take care of everyone, if I tried to make everybody do the right thing.

If I went through my life without ever learning to say, “Sorry that’s not my table, Hon,” I would burn out and be no good to anybody.

I need to have a surly waitress inside myself that I can call on when it seems everybody in the world is waving an empty coffee cup in my direction.

My Inner Waitress looks over at them, keeping her six plates balanced and her feet moving, and says,

“Sorry, Hon, not my table.”

(That story is by Susan Shaw and quoted in a book I’m reading, The Power of Pause by Terry Hershey.)

My friends and I talk about the necessity of “letting go”.  I know about “detaching with love” and “you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself”.  I get all that.

But at some point I learned:

focusing on my needs is selfish,

if I could just make sure everyone else was okay, then I’d be okay,

and caretaking is noble.

I like having an Inner Waitress.  I am given a set number of tables to serve.  If they don’t fill up, I stop and rest.  If they’re full of messy teenagers, cranky babies, or slightly rude businessmen preoccupied with their phones, then I keep putting one foot in front of the other and do the next right thing.  Hopefully with some grace and a smile.

It’s simple.  God’s the boss.  I’m the server.

Now, which ones are my tables?

Cracked Souls

I heard a man say that his HIV-positive diagnosis was a blessing.  I know a woman who says she is a grateful recovering alcoholic.

The man who is HIV positive says his diagnosis stopped him from following a path that would have killed him.  My friend in recovery says her worst day sober is better than her best day when she drank.  Both talk about the people they wouldn’t have met otherwise.  They know the meaning of self-compassion and they live healthy lives, physically, and spiritually.

Maybe that’s the common denominator–the spirituality thing.  They talk about a higher power that has kept them alive for a reason.  They share with others where they have been and where they are now.  The cracks in their souls that were caused by pain and sorrow let their light shine through.  They are wounded healers walking among us.

Some people are bitter and angry because their lives are not what they expected.  We all have hard stuff,  eventually.  Loved ones die, illnesses are diagnosed, jobs are lost, and children make dumb choices and get hurt.  It might be tornadoes or hurricanes or floods.  Relationships flounder and addictions are rampant.

We have choices.  We will feel the anger and sadness and panic and confusion that follow a crisis.  Then what?  How do we keep putting one foot in front of the other?  How do we find the strength to do the next right thing with some grace and dignity?

The man who is HIV-positive has connected with others who have that diagnosis.  My alcoholic friend has a recovery community for support and encouragement.  They have found compassion and understanding.  They have found others who can laugh at the absurdities of life.  They are not alone.

Where’d It Go?

My granddaughter is learning about “Where’d it go?”.  Yesterday she was on my husband’s lap and he showed her the cross he wears on a chain inside his shirt.  She, 10 months old and teething, wanted to put it in her mouth.  So he dropped it back inside his shirt.  She pulled the neck of the shirt and looked down inside.  There it was!

That’s how I feel about my week.  Where’d it go?

I had plans and goals for this week, mapped out on a nice chart given to me by Elaine, a spiritual coach.  It breaks each day into 3-hour blocks. You fill in one to-do for each block.  The hope is to get that one to-do completed in each 3-hour block.

None of my blocks got checked off.  We had snow and ice that I wouldn’t drive on.  My inner child had a “snow-day” mentality. We babysat Wednesday and Friday and I (choose to) get nothing done if Adaline is here.

I learned recently there are three possible responses to stress/anxiety.  I knew about “fight or flight.  The third response is “freeze”.

I need to plan for a class I start teaching on January 19.  I’m out of my comfort zone with this project, which I volunteered for.  I’m afraid of not doing well.

In my family of origin we dealt with distress or fear by shutting down emotionally and getting lost in something to read.  We are all good readers, but not very good with feelings.

I read a great book this week.  I didn’t work on my class.

Now I’m more anxious than before and writing this instead of working on my class!

Help me!

Pray Naked

It is important to pray naked in front of a full-length mirror sometimes, especially when you are full of loathing for your body.  “Here I am.  This is the body-like-no-other that my life has shaped.  I live here.  This is my soul’s address.”

I’m reading the book An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor.  Each chapter discusses a spiritual practice for daily life.  Most are not as challenging as praying naked.

Like so many women, I have struggled since adolescence  with my feelings about my body.  Several years ago I realized my mother was probably anorexic most of my life.  She is the source of my continuing angst about my rear end.  I was awed by my body when I was pregnant and nursing.  I felt betrayed by my body when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at 35.  While my body has given me pain over the years, it has also given me lots of learning opportunities.  I know now where my daughter’s dogged determination and persistence may come from.  And no wonder my daughters are driven to be independent and self-sufficient.

Dogged determination has gotten me through numerous surgeries and frustrations.  My need to be self-sufficient has made it hard for me to ask for help easily.  I don’t want to share my vulnerabilities.  And I really don’t like that my hands and feet look weird and that I don’t always walk smoothly.  I don’t want my disease to show.  I want to control who knows and who helps and, God forbid, who might feel sorry for me.

My body is my soul’s address?  God thinks my soul can handle challenges, I guess.  I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without rheumatoid arthritis.  Once in a while, I’m even grateful for the gifts of compassion and acceptance that I can share.  More often it is simply hard work–emotionally, physically, and spiritually–to be okay with my physical self.  I get tired sometimes.

So, pray naked?  I haven’t tried that yet.  But the idea has been stuck in my mind for days.  That usually means my Higher Power is nudging me toward something I don’t really want to do.  Which I will eventually do because it’s the next right thing.

How about if you go first and let me know how it was for you?