Toward the end of 2018, I sat and considered some of the feedback I’d received over the year both internal (from talking to myself) and external.
I have specific goals for my writing, but I have specific personal goals as well. One is to improve the way I communicate with others when things go wrong.
My car had a flat tire a while back. The air cap was missing. I ended up missing a very important doctors appointment. It ended up throwing off my plans for the rest of the day and bleeding into the next.
I called my husband and was fuming. He calmed me and said … there had been a flat tire. He took it to a tire shop and had them patch it. They refilled the tire and must have forgotten to put a cap on. It had been slowly leaking since then, and with cold weather had compressed enough to reduce the air pressure.
Even if it had been his fault, I shouldn’t have expressed my anger that way. I said things that I regret.
I sat and read about conflict resolution and how to stop saying things that I regret.
Can’t Stuff It Back In
Sometimes I say things that I regret. I’m tired. We had upsetting news, and I felt exhausted and hopeless. It doesn’t excuse me. It’s just an explanation. When I’m physically having a rough time, or under too much stress, I’m most likely to reach that tipping point. I react, it’s a nuclear reaction, and I can’t stuff what I said back in my mouth. I’ve given life to frogs and malice like a cursed princess instead of jewels and flowers following me wherever I go.
Reading about conflict resolution, gentle parenting, and being a friend to myself has really helped me. I want to keep putting into practice those new tools I have learned.
When I find myself getting frustrated, it’s often mixed with a panicky feeling because something else is also wrong – I need rest, or food, or less stimuli. Less stimuli for me can come in the form of a clean house. If I need to clean, then I’m constantly noticing dirt or clutter and adding to a never ending to-do list.
Introspection can be difficult. It’s my observation that most of us are a little unreliable when it comes to how we perceive ourselves versus actuality.
Someone recently commented that they are “nice” to strangers but reserve kindness only for their close friends and family. I didn’t engage with them. They have the right to their approach to life.
I don’t understand this thinking. I strive to be kind to everyone I meet. Sometimes I fail, but I want to be good for goodness’ sake, not just to those who are close to me.
Kindness is often both priceless and free.
My challenge to myself this year is to be kinder in my words both in and out – in how I speak to myself, and everyone with whom I come in contact.
My challenge is to listen to understand, not to reply, and to consider the people around me, and what they need to hear versus what I want to say.
Do you have any personal challenges this year you’d like to share?
Being Gentle With Ourselves During the Hustle and Bustle
I broke down crying. I was standing in the store after an upsetting day, looking at ornaments and overwhelmed by the choices. I had to leave and collect myself. And ya know what? It’s okay. It was a little embarrassing. I caught some looks. I’ll live.
Last weekend I had the wonderful opportunity of listening to a semi-retired therapist – Bonnie Gramlich- speak about the challenge of the holiday season. I’ll tell you what she talked about, my history with grief, and what I’ve been doing differently this year. Continue reading “It’s OK to Not Be Jolly | Weekend Wishes”
Wherein I discuss putting mindfulness and minimalism back in their places.
Minimalism and mindfulness have their own places on the shelf of life. Sometimes we need to put them back in their places. Maybe your experiences are different but I’m going to share mine.
Minimalism. The oft praised design concept that conjures up fresh tiny houses, Scandinavian designs, Japanese zen gardens, and futuristic serenity come to mind. Jane Cumberbatch’s Pure Style Livinghas maintained a treasured spot on my bookshelf for over a decade with its praise of white, sterile, industrial inspired function. #goals
In contrast I have a maximalist house. It’s overly large (we’re planning on expanding our family). It’s overly cluttered (I’m working on that). My life is anything but sterile. It’s functionally chaotic.
An article I read talked about the mental stress that clutter causes. I had a hard time explaining it to my husband before reading the article, but this really helped. Clutter causes anxiety for me because it represents endless to-do lists and embarrassment. I want the house to look like a magazine cover, but it’s a mess. I don’t think I could ever have someone help me clean up either – I’m too particular, and it would make me very uncomfortable. When I first brought the baby home, a few close friends or family offered to help, but I had to turn them down. Having anyone else clean up my mess would rack me with guilt.
In the spirit of reducing and destressing, I tackled the closets, the bookcases, and some keepsakes. The Marie Kondo method really has helped me trim down my closet to clothes I enjoy wearing.
Why own clothes that don’t make me feel good? Why keep books or keepsakes that are just collecting dust? If I don’t treasure them, then why not give them a happier home with someone else?
Like The Decemberist’s song, “[A]nd if you don’t love me, let me go”.
Marie Kondo’s method of folding socks and t-shirts has transformed my drawers. The idea of treating my belongings with respect has truly increased value for objects I otherwise disregarded.
Someone who has read Kondo’s book was telling me that there’s an idea expressed that if your house is cluttered it’s because you’re choosing chaos, and that if you’re choosing chaos in your most intimate of physical environments it’s to distract you from the disarray in your own mind. Again, I have yet to read it, so I can’t speak to the quote and tone.
That idea, however, been bothering me for a few days. Am I choosing chaos in my home to avoid chaos in my mind?
I’ve been trying to get as much done as I can, but I seem to consistently fail. I definitely relate to having chaos within, and I’m doing my best to tame the chaos around me.
Someone else told me that they choose to view chaos in their physical environment instead of as the result a choice (blaming oneself) as merely a case of insufficient resources. They view it not as a personal failing but as a symptom of too little time/energy.
This brings me back to mindfulness.
Studies upon studies tout the line that mindfulness meditation has health benefits, improves mental health, etc.
What if you can’t get into it, though?
I’ve had to deal with some intense physical pain during my life. Sitting and focusing on what I’m experiencing in the moment isn’t always goodfor my mental health personally.
Mindfulness sometimes employs labeling: naming experiences, condensing actions into an idea to limit internal monologue to allow more time to focus on the present.
An example of labeling might go something like this:
It brings acute awareness to physical sensations. For me that sensation tended to be pain.
My mindfulness labeling went something like this:
Inhale. Hurting. Exhale. Hurting. Inhale. Hurting. Exhale. Still Hurting.
It sucked. I don’t want to just sit and think about how much pain I’m in. I can’t negate that being the most poignant part of my experience in those moments. Mindfulness that focused on labeling the present was not for me.
Does it helpothers? Yes. More power to them.
For me meditation that focuses on controlling thoughts is more helpful: mantras, focused breathing (especially square breathing).
Sometimes this sad vending machine is a pretty accurate depiction of me.
Minimalism, for all its beauty, isn’t working for me. I’m trying to tackle the clutter one type at a time and trying to become better organized. That’s one tool that I’ll have to shelve for now.
There are cleaning guides I’ve looked at as well. They seem to over-simplify cleaning. Focusing on a single room a day sounds like a great approach, but it hasn’t worked for me. I can’t do just one load of laundry a day or one load of dishes either. I mentioned this to a friend who said they think this only works if your house is clean to begin with and you’re just doing maintenance cleaning instead of nitty gritty cleaning and you live by yourself. With a baby and pets, laundry and cleaning are constant. I also have to decide – do I want to treasure this moment with my child (who will only be this size right now), or do I want a perfectly clean house? Cleaning can wait.
The same goes for meditation: mindfulness isn’t my cup of tea. With so many types of meditation, I’m lucky I’ve found other ways of quieting my mind.
My go-to meditations besides square breathing are simply counting one on the inhale and two on the exhale and trying to free my mind of any thoughts; and a singing meditation:
When I breathe out, I breathe out peace. When I breathe in, I breathe in love.
My goal right now is to shelve those thoughts deriding myself for perceived failures in organizing my physical and headspace and to just accept that sometimes I have insufficient resources. I don’t think the Serenity Prayer was meant to be applied this way, but I definitely need “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.
What are your favorite ways of creating order in your headspace and/or physical space?
This week I’ve struggled with some weltschmerz. Today I’m going to talk about the origins of my pain and the two things that alleviated it.
Fear, The Unknown
It’s been difficult for me to find not only a sense of hope but of solidarity in these past few days especially with the #MuslimBan. These people around me and in our country have such a sense of hatred and fear towards the unknown, towards Islam.
A few years ago I saw a fearmongering book at a relative’s house about Islam. Curious, I read the back cover copy. It was in that instant that I knew what I must do: arm myself with knowledge about Islam so I could be set free by the truth and escape fear.
Over the next few months I read several books that changed the way I view Islam:
Am I thinking of converting? Not a chance. Do I feel like an expert now? Not at all. These books, however, took away my fear of the unknown, of Islam. It is a complex, nuanced religion built around community. There are also Muslims who protect Christians and in fact this is a (somewhat) forgotten tenet of Islam.
Being a Unitarian Universalist, the religious freedom of others is very near and dear to my heart.
This is one of my favorite quotes:
We are not enemies, but friends.
One of my cousins is so often a source of inspiration to me. He is truly an incredible person. He shared this powerful video and it brought calm to my heart.
We Will Make Our Voices Heard All Around the World
Growing up in a conservative household I often saw on Fox News claims that the liberal media was attacking the truth. I believed them. Now I know that the media is not truly as liberal as they claimed and that liberals are just as attacked as conservatives. The truth is out there but it’s more difficult to find than turning on MSNBC. I recommend looking for an objective opinion — the BBC — as they have no horse in this race. Vice News is also dedicated to pure journalism without entertainment/opinion.
I went to college for Political Science and wanted to become a journalist and promote the truth. It was there that the chaff burnt away and I began my transformation into my purist self: a liberal.
Knowing how to think for myself, I quickly realized that I was a liberal at heart. It was hard for me to find a spiritual home in the mountains of Western North Carolina. One day my husband and I took the Belief-O-Matic quiz and both discovered Unitarian Universalism. In a matter of moments we found our spiritual home: the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Franklin.
Seeing Facebook posts from one of the most politically active members has given me a sense of community. What really put me over the top, though, was this video of Elizabeth Warren:
I hope you found that as unifying as I did. This country was founded on religious freedom. With that we have the responsibility to let all people seek the truth for themselves. Your truth and mine may not be the same but I will fight for your freedom.