Frederick Buechner on love

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” -Frederick Buechner

Creating a home that is sacred space

I’ve struggled for a long time with clutter.

Clutter is in my home, at work, and in my car.  When I can get myself started on a cleaning project, I can make some good progress. The hardest part is almost always getting my brain and my body convinced to get started. (Yes,  it’s frequently hard to maintain the cleared space as well.)

For years I’ve been fighting with myself about clearing clutter. I plan a cleaning project, bring home boxes, sort out some items to give to Goodwill, sort papers and throw or shred them. Usually I end up with more boxes of stuff that need more sorting and organizing. Those boxes end up piling up and taking up space. Sometimes even the containers of things to go to Goodwill end up hanging around for a while before I deliver them.

I also buy and bring home more stuff than I get rid of. Too much comes in the door and far too little goes back out. This is not a good balance for someone with the goal of having a home that feels open, nurturing, and peaceful.

As a consequence, my space feels cluttered, cramped, messy, and disorganized.  I don’t want to invite people over into my space. I don’t even want to be in my space.  As the wise FlyLady says, I have “CHAOS Syndrome- Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.” (If you have clutter or know someone who does, then please check out FlyLady.com.)

With some help from a wise soul, I’ve finally figured out that I need to reframe the whole idea of clutter. Instead of thinking of this monumental and hated task that I have to do, I choose to think about taking care of my home as a spiritual process that allows me to nurture and love myself and my daughter.  As I wrote the list below, I imagined what my own loving presence would say to me to counteract the excuses I usually use to avoid the process.  Today I’m going to post the list of reminders in my home to help me remember my decision and change of focus.  Then I’m going to make some coffee, put on some tunes, and get started on the process of creating my sacred space.

Creating a Home That Is  Sacred Space

 Creating/clearing/organizing is a nurturing, loving, spiritual process.

 I deserve a space that is nurturing, serene, peaceful, open.

 Letting go of “stuff” allows room and flow and presence.

 “Stuff” only plugs up the flow of love, presence, peace, abundance.

 A space that is sacred allows me to rest, renew, relax, connect, function, foster health, love.

 Creating/clearing/organizing/getting rid of “stuff” honors me.

 A clean, open, sacred space will allow me to enjoy things and activities that delight and nurture me.

 Completing baby steps toward my goal(s) is loving and nurturing.

 Space allows abundance to thrive; “stuff” is not the same as abundance.

 Allowing “stuff” to become someone else’s abundance creates love.

 There is always enough.

 I honor myself by keeping only what I love and what I truly need to live.

Peace to you today.

Monday’s words of the day

Words of the day? Fear. Anxiety.

Somehow I’ve let fear and anxiety grow and morph into something big and scary that makes my breathing shallow, my shoulders tight, and the middle of my chest feel permanently knotted. It’s affecting my concentration at home and at work, and it’s making life in general difficult. So that’s the bad news.

The good news is that I’m starting to take charge, in baby steps. I’m noticing the physical and emotional signs, in baby steps. I’m remembering again how it feels to step outside of the fear and look at it without judging it and without trying to make it go away, again in baby steps.

I’m starting to notice and even talk to the fear again, just a little at a time.

Sometimes I’m letting my own loving presence come to sit with me when I step outside the fear and begin to notice it from the outside. It’s not so scary when I just observe and not judge it. Fear is not so powerful when I don’t try to distract myself away from looking at it. It loses it’s grip on my body when I just observe it and breathe deeply without listening to its negative, seductive voice.

I’m starting to use music to find that inner loving presence. And to use deep breathing. I’m finding quotes to post around in my spaces at work and home to remind me of that loving presence. I’m also making myself a prayer shawl in just the right color and yarn to use to wrap myself in as a reminder that my loving presence is available.

I’m starting to remind myself that facing whatever is fearful takes the power of that fear away. Going through it to the other side is the one and only thing that helps to ease it. When I do get through the fear, I’m reminded that fear and anxiey don’t kill me. That I’m a strong woman who has conquered a whole lot of big things in my life. And that I can do it again, a little step at a time.

Today the following quotes are speaking just the right message to my inner, loving presence.

Many of our fears are tissue-paper-thin, and a single courageous step would carry us clear through them. ~Brendan Francis

Fear is static that prevents me from hearing myself.  ~Samuel Butler

Fear:  False Evidence Appearing Real.  ~Author Unknown

The wise man in the storm prays God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals, 1833

Peace to you today.

Good morning, Brain Fog

Monday morning. Had breakfast and a large cup of coffee. Brain feels like it’s stuffed with cotton balls.

So instead of remaining in this fog, it’s time to examine it, and maybe even talk to it. Time to suspend reality for a few moments….

Me: “Good morning, Brain Fog. I’m noticing that you’re back with me today.”

Brain Fog: “Yep, it’s me. You had a long and sort of blah Sunday, and I thought it would be a great time to stop by for a visit.”

Me: “If you’ll give me a few moments,  I need to think about why you might be visiting today.” (pause) “It seems like you’ve brought your partner Anxiety with you this morning. My shoulders feel a little stiff and my jaw is tight. My breathing is a little shallow compared to how it feels when Anxiety isn’t around.”

Brain Fog: “Smart woman. I wasn’t sure you’d notice today. You’ve been doing some avoiding lately, and that makes me and my friends stronger.”

Me: “You’re right about avoiding, now that you mention it. Avoiding paperwork, avoiding making and/or returning phone calls, avoiding doing laundry, avoiding church yesterday…. It’s because whenever I think about doing those things, Anxiety jumps right up and starts doing its thing. I don’t like how it feels when Anxiety visits.  I don’t like the physical feelings, and I don’t like the thoughts. Sometimes you guys even gang up on me like today. It’s a lot to handle.”

Anxiety: “Yeehaw! I knew today was a good day to visit. You can’t avoid me. I’m too strong and persistent. Bwahahaha!”

Me: (Stops to take a long deep breath) “Hold it right there, mister! You can’t come sneaking in here and ruin my day. I’m in charge of my body and my thinking!”

Anxiety: “Could have fooled me….”

Brain Fog: “Busted….”

Me: “Okay, here’s how today is going to go. I’m taking a 5 minute break to do some deep breathing and get centered. I’m going to say a quick prayer to ask God to help me relax, refocus, and to catch you two when you try to sneak back in. I might even take a quick walk to the mailbox for some fresh air. When I come back, you guys are outta here! For the next 30 minutes I’m going to tackle some files and get some work done. I’m not going to surf the Internet. I’m not going to read headlines on my RSS reader. I’m going to be relaxed and focused. At the end of 30 minutes I’m going to give myself credit for accomplishing whatever is done.”

Brain fog: “We’re gonna come back, you know. We’re sneaky like that.”

Anxiety: “You won’t even know what hit you. We’ll definitely be back….”

Me: “I’ll be on the lookout. I’ll be paying attention to my body for signs of tension and stress. I’ll notice when my brain just wants to play on the Internet instead of tackling the pile of work. As soon as I notice you guys, I’ll take some action to relax and focus, and out the door you’ll go again. I’ll be waiting….”

Unusual, I know, but I’m feeling more focused now that I’ve checked in with the inner self and challenged those buzzards. Anxiety and Brain Fog, be gone!

Peace to you today.

“Squirrel!”

squirrelEver have one of those days where your mind just cannot seem to stay on one thing? Yesterday was one of those days.

On the way to work I often pray in the car while I’m driving. Yesterday being no exception, I dropped off my daughter at school, got my coffee, turned off the radio, and started my morning talk with (to?) God.

Usually in the ten minutes or so it takes me to get to work, I can stay on track. I thank God for blessings and get down to asking for blessings for people I know or myself. Sometimes I even talk out loud about an issue that’s bugging me and try to come up with a strategy to solve the problem. Sometimes I stop to listen to any mental nudges God might send.

Yesterday’s problem: difficulty with concentration. Every 30 seconds or so during my driving prayer time, my mind would be off thinking about the shades of color in the trees. Or the Halloween decorations I had just passed. Or wishing the lady tailgating me would back off. Or thinking about that new pair of Keen shoes I really want.

Each time I noticed that my attention had lapsed, I would gently bring myself back to the prayer. I finally had to chuckle at myself when I realized how I had started to act like Dug (the dog) in the Disney/Prexar movie “Up“. The cute little dog tagging along through the story was constantly getting distracted and shouting “Squirrel!” at every turn.

I’m glad I was able to recognize what was happening and laugh at myself. It does no good to beat myself up about it. I finally decided to close the prayer by asking God to help me find ways to concentrate so I could get through the day and actually accomplish something.

Peace to you today.  “Squirrel!”

Doing what is possible

I did not do the impossible, I just did all that was possible at the time.”  Miklos Nemeth, an economist who became the Prime Minister of Hungary in 1988, was instrumental in bringing down the Iron Curtain which divided Europe during the Cold War. (See BBC article “The man who pulled the Iron Curtain”.)

Sometimes when I’m struggling with depression and anxiety, the mile long to-do list is way too overwhelming and nigh impossible to accomplish. Nemeth’s words bring up all kinds of parallels for my own life, ways to take little steps to get bigger things accomplished.   Time for a list:

  • Make today’s to-do list do-able. Pick 3 small to medium projects that I can actually accomplish, and then tackle them one by one. (Credit for this one goes to a good friend who mentioned this very idea just last night. I’d include her name, but I’ll have to ask her first.)
  • If projects seem too overwhelming, pick 3 small actions/jobs that are do-able and then tackle.
  • If even that seems too difficult, pick ONE job and go for it. Then pick another one.
  • There have been moments where a whole job is too much, and breaking that down further is the only way to get something done. For example, I might pick up 10 things around the house that need to be put away (I am queen of clutter). I might get myself to just start ONE load of laundry. Or just take out the trash. Or clean off the coffee table. Or pick up magazines in one room. Or do dishes for 5 minutes.
  • Even then there are the days where it takes all I can do to get out of bed and brush my teeth. But setting goals that are very small and manageable are critical to getting through the day in one piece.

One final important thought about breaking tasks down into steps that are manageable and do-able. I must, must, must give myself credit for accomplishing even the smallest task. If I beat myself up for not accomplishing something, I feel worse and the guilt cycle starts. If I say to myself, “Hey, you did it. You got something accomplished.”, then I’m being kind to myself. I’m choosing a positive message. I might even be able to tackle the next little thing on the list. And then the next thing.

Peace to you today.