There are times I am called to come and make things right. People are not happy but cannot pinpoint the reason why. I have long learned that “I can’t fix the space if the people are broken.”
There are so many reasons to get stuck and it usually ends up with never being able to donate, trash or organize our stuff. As a raving fan of Marie Kondo — I love this quote by her;
The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.
I enter a person’s work or home and visualize their thoughts by the condition of where they work or live. Priorities surface immediately. I just let them talk about their frustrations and listen for clues. I leave with a notebook of ideas but wait for that second call to start. No one wants to empty a room, drawer, desk or closet but that is where I know the process begins.
I now use this concept as a teacher’s aide. Desks have a flow. Finding a place for everything gives a feeling of calm. A cluttered room leads to cluttered thinking or in particular overwhelm. Overwhelm leads to getting nothing done. People need a space of their own and a way to keep it exactly the way that gives them peace. Make time to use your creative side. . . . . . . .
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” — Jamie Anderson
I can’t think of a better way to describe the emptiness that comes with sudden loss, irreversible loss, loss of a future.
I have had two neighbors lose their husbands in the last few months. Their grief is deep and inconsolable at times. Their planned futures are cut short and they are left with daily chores that seem meaningless. It speaks to the magic of a couple who work together side by side to create a home and a life. When one is gone — the dreams die quickly.
While not the same, the grief the world is feeling is quite like dreams dying while we wait out the pandemic spread to wane. No one was prepared to abruptly stop normalcy and stay home with no end in sight. That is the scary phrase “no end in sight.” What do we do with our plans, our goals and all the pent up energy that feels wasted?
It took me a while to accept change. One month turned into three and then four and we are entering month five. This length of time of altered plans will stay in our brains for a long time. I am finally believing that life will not return as it was last year.
That fact is not easy to accept. Seems that the 21st Century is trying to tell us something about normalcy. It won’t let us get complacent. There was 9/11 which shook our security to new lows. There was the financial meltdown of the stock and real estate markets of 2008-2009. Now the pandemic has created a world wide shift of the economy, business solvency and social gatherings. Every day there are more deaths to report. Seemingly healthy people suddenly end up in the hospital in a life or death situation. Staying home is the safest place.
My life had evolved into very little staying home. I found joy in the career I had created and spent my free time at my local coffee shop writing. Home was just a place to regroup and set up for the next day. The forced stay at home was not easy to accept.
As in the past, I have found that boredom breeds creativity. I discovered that being outside gardening is much more fun that sitting inside watching TV. Sitting outside with my IPad is better for me than sitting in a coffee shop. Staying home more is better than getting up early and being gone all day.
I’m getting more sleep. I found gardening is a great hobby. Getting outside is relieving anxiety and giving me a new sense of peace. I don’t miss the busyness I created.
Losing my daily routine is not near as difficult as the grief my two neighbors are experiencing. The grief that the world is going through is on different levels but grief nonetheless.
Has this been eye opening? Yes. Has it been easy? No. Do I want my life to return to how it was in 2019? No.
I have found a new joy in a simpler life. I appreciate what my husband and I have built together. To lose him in the middle of our journey would have been devastating. I am grateful that we are facing this together. Plans have to change for many reasons.
Slowing down has helped me prioritize where I spend my time. Slowing down has opened my eyes to appreciation. Slowing down has made me focus on where I hope to be in a few years. Needing recognition and “stuff” is not necessary. Being outdoors, exercising and eating home cooked meals are a start to a better life.
I have taken a lot of time to think this week. It is not enough to be enraged by what is going on in our country. It takes a total “rewirement” of thought process and development of new habits.
I had signed up for the Yale online class “The Science of Well-Being” a few months ago and found that the last few sessions focused on ways to rewire the brain and reach goals by making new thought connections to what I wanted to accomplish.
I have never worked harder on a homework assignment. I found that being aware of each detail of where I am in my day really helped me focus on the moment and realizing where my thinking could keep me off track. I am training to set out certain times of the day to change my routine. I moved slower but accomplished more. I listened to the voice inside my head telling me to pay attention.
I now have new tools for the bigger change in me. To really listen and understand that others life experience is wrought with daily fight or flight responses. They cannot just wish it away. It is a humanity problem that has long since been swept under the rug for another day. Being kind is not enough. It takes paying attention to how I listen, what books I read, what podcasts I follow and diversity of my social world. It is time for me to get schooled on how to effect the change that black lives hope to see. They have a lot to contribute to our nation and it is time to stop just wishing it were so. I am as responsible as anyone to make this happen.
Like the new blooms on the rose bush, I need to start from the beginning and rewire my old habits. There is more beauty to discover in the differences of others experiences. I am listening instead of giving my opinion and watching through different eyes.
This week has touched me in ways that I realize come from my own soul searching. The first change I made with myself was to learn to listen differently. I quit trying to fix the situation with my opinion. Instead, I asked questions. Big difference to the person talking to me. I hear the story and then let them tell me what they think. Listening now consists of NOT talking.
I am NOT coming to the conversation with preconceived ideas. Every situation is different and warrants a thoughtful list of facts. That should give a thoughtful list of solutions.
I am just beginning to react to our week of protests. I needed to be made aware of my own biases. I did not have a diverse group of books, business owners, music and last but not least Instagram people I follow. I needed to broaden my world and understand what it would be like to “walk in different shoes.”
What do you miss during this time of staying home? I miss going to my favorite coffee shop — Bodhi Leaf Coffee. It’s not about the coffee as I drink tea (which they have my favorite iced green tea) but about the atmosphere and my motivation while there to write my blog. It did not matter that there were noise distractions from other customers, I was able to focus and put myself in a very calm zone. I miss the friendly faces behind the counter who always greeted me with “Hi Sherry!”
I have been ordering their coffee online for my entire family. I am doing the next best thing I know how to do by ordering their products online and surprising my out of state family with coffee delivered to their door.
I miss walking freely around my town. Most of the public places have been closed to keep us safe from group gathering. I miss going out without a second thought about my health. Who knew that masks, gloves and cleansing wipes would become a part of going out in public?
The goal is to find balance in the things you’re thinking.
Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present.
You can also think about how to let go of what you can’t control.
There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.
And, I believe we will find meaning in it. I’ve been honored that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s family has given me permission to add a sixth stage to grief: Meaning.
So that word MEANING jumped out at me. What has helped me navigate the fear is trying to think about what might change for the better because of this. Here are a few of my ideas:
Traffic problems will ease if more people are set up to work remotely at least two days a week;
Teachers have become the new heroes to everyone — no one will ever wonder what they do to teach our kids;
Doctors and nurses are as vital as firemen, police officers and first responders ~~ they went to the frontline to do battle;
Custodians in every type of business are the people we never see ~~ they do their work at night when we are home ~~ they are as necessary to our survival as the CEO of the company;
Stay at home parents are set up for a thankless “what do you do all day” job ~~ that will never be a problem again;
I hope all leaders of every country realize that by working together we can overcome anything;
Kindness works — a smile or a thank you goes a long way.
I know that I am making my life simpler each day. I am seeing nature in a different way. It can teach us about renewal and that no matter what forces try to destroy it, there will always be something green growing from the ground.
Will today’s emergency even be remembered? Will that thing you’re particularly anxious about have been hardly worth the time you put into it?
Better Question: What could you do today that would matter a year from now? Seth Godin
Anxiety became a part of my life at about age 20. I can’t say that before then I didn’t worry but it never caused me to lose sleep or suffer panic attacks. I was young and had no life experience. I was making decisions for myself with no thought about my goals. As a matter of fact, I had no goals.
My world was changing drastically and I guess you could say I was free falling, hanging onto my childhood and life at home for dear life. There was no push for me to go to college and even though I got good grades in high school, I had never thought about a career. In 1973 girls were still given a pass if they chose not to go to college. I had no money saved and going against type, I just left junior college without even withdrawing. I was bored and lost.
While I realize that my parent’s going through a heartbreaking divorce at the time had moved the needle toward anxiety, I cannot blame them or their choices for my own. High School was such a haven for me that I truly thought it would go on forever. How could I be so responsible yet so immature? I was definitely on a path to learn the hard way.
After reading the above quote from Seth Godin, I thought about what it meant. It seems obvious, the daily worries will subside and it’s better to plan for your future. I reread it many times to understand that anxiousness and worry are a dead end waste of energy. Then I realized that it took ENERGY(Definition: the capacity for vigorous activity; available power) to create my anxiety and more ENERGY to work through a panic attack. The lightbulb came on this morning to a solution — treat energy as a tangible thing, not just a feeling.
I’ve started taking a minute to test my energy level for every task of the day. Starting with just one day is less overwhelming. I’m trying to make my daily structure fulfilling and productive. Even cleaning a bathroom can be satisfying when you see the end result. Once the bathroom is clean, it leads to rearranging and moving things. A picture straightened and appreciated, a glass vase looking better on the other side of the sink with the dust being wiped off, the reflection in the mirror is better when there are no water marks on it. I began a process of being slow, steady and paying attention to what is front of me. While I am organizing and cleaning, my brain starts to sort itself out too. I faced each day calmer. My focus was better — instead of anxious I started to feel motivated.
I was not ready for the world at 20 because I did not look at it as a great and wonderful source of choices. I was closed off to adventure. I stayed safe within the confines of pleasing. I followed the expected path. It doesn’t really please anyone to do what you think they want from you. The energy is directed away from your soul and dissipates out in the air with nothing to show for it. I now visualize my energy floating away — a great vision to check on myself.
So I thought about what and where I get energy from and how it has replaced worry and anxiety:
Writing this Blog
Organizing a Mess (throwing it all in the middle and sorting before it goes back)
Knowing what I have — financial and material
Reading Biographies (I am fascinated to see how people get where they are)
Family Time (grown kids are amazing friends who are honest and true)
One thing missing on my list is “Planning Adventures” — I need to start small with day adventures and learn to leave the chores behind once in a while. Sometimes doing nothing accomplishes exactly what you need for the day.
I was asked to participate in a new mentor program for freshmen in Social Science Majors at my Alma Mater. I decided quickly to fill out the questionnaire and even though I missed the deadline, they asked me to join. I am learning to try new things without a complete outline of what to expect and this was a last minute thought.
I was a bit nervous driving back to college because it had been a while and the campus has grown quite a bit. Luckily, they set up a free parking area which as everyone knows is a huge gift that eases stress to start the day. I only made one wrong turn but recovered enough to walk into the building on time. I figured being a mentor meant being prompt was a big deal. I was met with this emblem which caused me to stop and pause —
I went back to college late in life. I was losing myself in adult choices and responsibilities and a very wise counselor helped me find a goal — one goal, something I could work toward that overruled my emotions. It gave me a chance to test my tenacity and work toward something difficult to achieve. My success or failure depended on no one but me.
I found my way to the building that housed my classes for 3 years. It’s funny the nostalgia that happens in an instant. I appreciated everything about my quest for a degree because it was such a dark choice in my past to not finish what I had started at 18. I veered off my path but second chances are the best part of life.
I was met by the nicest people who welcomed me with enthusiasm. This was the start of a test program and I have always known that to be on the ground floor of anything at the beginning is always the best place to be. They matched me with my student. Funny how things work out. His mentor did not show up nor did my student. We were meant to meet. He was equipped with an audio recorder and off we went to figure out who might be helping who.
He was well organized with questions. I was happy to answer. . . .
Who did I admire growing up? (my maternal grandmother)
What was my childhood like?(outside all day)
Did my parents talk to me about college? (no, nor did guidance counselors)
What made me decide to attend this college? (location because I had a family at home)
Why Psychology? (my experience in family law exposed me to many broken people, I wanted to understand how to help)
How had the campus changed since I was there? (more buildings, parking and dorms)
What was the same about the campus . . . .
I had to think about what was the same. I watched the students walking the same way with backpacks and direction. I thought for a minute and realized they were Walking Into Their Future. They were showing up. They were making choices. They kept going even when it got difficult. No one kept track of them, they were independent and free. The tree in the quad was a constant and a symbol of growth.
And last but the most important questions of the day. . . What have you learned since you first started your career? What did graduation lead you to?
I had to think about that. When I was younger I would have answered quickly without a lot of thought. I wanted to help him understand what life experience can teach as you look back and have some clarity.
I learned that listening and allowing people to be who they are was not who I was when I started. I thought that my way was the best way to a successful life. I talked a lot. I was nervous and filled the silence with words that meant very little. I wanted everyone to be happy with me. I spent little time in thought about being centered and most of all, I was a shell of a person who had limited risk taking experience.
I am not completely whole yet, there is still more to do. But there was a moment when I realized that observing was an achievement that helped me feel peace. The word advice is gone from my mind and replaced with “what do you think?” People deserve to be heard, to have new ideas and be on their own journey to joy. I can watch from afar without stepping in unless asked to.
I laughed when I saw two signs of things I missed out on by going back to college late in life. I have traveled and been an enthusiastic member of the audience but I could never go back and do these things. . . .
My last thoughts to the amazing student I had the pleasure of getting to know and who is just beginning to think about his career. . . Try everything, don’t say you can’t do something — you never know where it will lead. Be you! Keep going even when you think life is too hard.
Oh and don’t get into debt so that you are forced to stay in a job you don’t love!
My question to him before we ended “if you could wake up tomorrow and be in any career what would it be?” He smiled and thought. I could tell he had not thought about it that way — being practical could be off the table for a moment. He had a spark in his eye when he said maybe a fashion designer. I told him that one day he could design something for me.
I’m not sure who got more out of our hour together. I know this for sure that being around young people keeps me energized. If he walked away with a few ideas, it was a huge success. I walked away feeling grateful that I had a second chance at college. I had fulfilled my goal and watching him Walk Into His Future was a moment I will treasure.
You can try to make your job have more. More impact, more responsibility, more leverage.
Or you can be industrial about it and try to have your job involve less. Less risk, less effort, less to fear.
Is your ideal job one where you get paid but no one even knows you work there . . . Or is it to bring your hopes and dreams and talents to a position where you can change things for the better?
I have had many jobs in my search for myself and my passion. I started working when I was 16 and am forever grateful to my parents for making this a condition for participating in extracurricular activities in high school. They required me to pay for gas when I drove their car and my song leader camp and outfits. It was a turning point in my growth and feeling of independence. I started as a school secretary for the night school at my high school and then landed a retail position as the “Youth Council” representative for my high school. I attended monthly meetings and my input was taken into account for the store buyers of the teen clothing department. I was also able to pick up shifts at the store on weeknights and weekends. I was busy. I learned to show up on time. I loved getting a paycheck. I knew that if I didn’t show up that I was letting them down. My parent’s rule gave me a great start.
After high school graduation I got a job at a bank. I learned about checking and savings accounts and as an employee I was given a credit account with a $300 limit. I never realized it until the other day that I learned every job that bank had to offer. I watched everyone and decided that I wanted to be the utility person. I could fill in for anyone who was sick or on vacation. It took about a year to learn what I needed to. I honestly do not know how I came up with that thought but it planted a seed that has stayed with me in every job I have taken. Be the one to raise your hand to help.
Okay, it sounds like my work life has been seamless — not so fast! There would always come a point in any job when I felt I could do more, be more — make more money. I started a family and went back to college. I was always searching for what my perfect fit was. It led to a lot of starting and stopping. I’ve had a lot of “I wish I knew then what I know now.” Be curious and never stop learning but focus on a goal.
Every career journey is personal. No one can help or get too involved in your choices. It is about asking questions, learning from mistakes and finding people who do the job that you would like to do. It’s about finding companies that motivate your best ideas and concepts. It’s about realizing that starting at the bottom is always the best step.
My husband and I owned a restaurant for about 4 years. It required me to quit my law office job and become the manager. I was terrible at the day to day operations. I lived for getting out in the community and marketing what we could make happen for group activities. We were stressed every day. We drove far to get there. We had 4 kids who were not getting the best from us. The day we sold was the happiest day of my life. I re-enrolled in college and spent more time at home. It became my LINCHPIN — my fork in the road. I started to set priorities.
College gave me courage. Part time work gave me flexibility. I took part time jobs that taught me something I didn’t know and then I would move on. I began to think like an entrepreneur— I liked making decisions that felt like me. I was able to keep this going for quite a while. I graduated from college. I focused on law offices. My kids went out on their own. I traveled to seminars in other states. I learned how others made their way. I loved my journey but had one problem — I wasn’t making much money. That became a problem when my husband (the best breadwinner I could ask for) retired. It was time to put all my talk and education into action. Once the pressure of income came into my head, I lost my confidence. I had grown comfortable with the flexibility of part time, of going to seminars and thinking that was doing something, of learning how to set up my website and of listening to podcasts. Time for less talk, less strategy and more action.
I had one more challenge — getting my real estate license. My idea was to work with families/individuals to avoid the pitfalls I saw of home buying and the stress it caused. I had a plan — it revolved around what I had finally found as my passion — Organizing — I have found my center. I have variety. I have flexibility. Organization helps everyone I work with feel settled. My dream career mix (finally) —
Law Office Administrator
Organizer of Homes, Home Offices and Small Business Books
These tools have served me well —
My parent’s rule — get a job to pay for high school activities;
Be the one to raise your hand to help others;
Be curious and never stop learning but focus on a goal;
Starting at the bottom is always the best step;
Set priorities once you have some experience;
Know when thinking about strategy needs to end — less talk and more action —
This week Chris and I went for our annual eye exam together. We have been seeing our optometrist for the entire 36 years we have lived in our home. All of our kids have seen him. He has witnessed all of our life changes and it’s nice that at least once a year we can catch up. He is patient and kind and relieves our worries of aging eyes.
Today he proclaimed that Chris is the perfect man. His eyes are so different in vision that they balance each other and he no longer needs contacts just a minimal prescription for reading glasses. Now, this is a big deal. I, on the other hand, am trying to find the CAPITAL E on the chart. His test of my left eye was just a big blur and I am always taking the peripheral test (the one with the Jeopardy buzzer) with sweaty palms — please let me see the green dot!
I went first. I gave as many details in my allotted time of our last year as I could. Even though I started first, Chris finished before me which tells you our relationship story without words. Our doctor made the fatal mistake of asking me what was happening with retirement and I proceeded to fill him in on how the last four years have been going — luckily I have spent a small fortune with him so he is not losing money when I come in.
Here are a few of my thoughts:
I was not happy for the first year as I was used to being home alone in my own world;
I am not fond of whistling — Chris is happy when he’s whistling;
After raising four kids, I was not in the mood to answer questions about my productivity and goal setting capabilities;
Chris being the amazing landscaper that he is, stepped up his weed-eater and blower duties — all which make noise and create dust;
I am the tech person in our home — my name was being called a bit more often to come to the rescue of wayward laptops and streaming devices;
I am an everything has a place girl and I am not good when things are dropped with no container underneath.
After four years, here is what I’ve learned:
Chris was allowed to be home — suggesting different activities or software for him to learn only put those things at the bottom of his “to do” list;
Whistling meant he was home and happy — unless we are in the car, I don’t hear it anymore;
He could in one sentence call me out on my bright shiny object syndrome; it turns out goals and objectives are a good thing in my world and have led me to the best career I have ever had;
Our yards are so beautiful — they have always been his place to be calm and creative — I just close the windows when I hear noise;
I strongly encourage reading manuals or watching a tutorial video — the technical side of life is either loved or hated and unless you love the challenge like me, just get to know what you deal with daily.
I had to let up a bit on my “everything in it’s place” but he takes his shoes off at the back door now. Don’t get me wrong there is never a wayward glass or a bed unmade but you will find the laundry overflowing a bit more and there are water marks on the bathroom mirrors now.
At the end of the visit, our doctor proclaimed that he will probably never retire. I told him just stay part time and ease into it.
Compromise is the key. The alternative is being consumed with loneliness. While the beds are made, the dust is barely there and the kitchen floor is clean ~~ the whistling is gone.
There are goals that I could have reached sooner had I realized how simple it would have been to make some commitments early —
Pick the first home to be a starter to help build a real estate portfolio of rental properties — I so wish I had kept my first home that was bought for $75,000 in 1979.
Don’t be fooled by lower interest rates and refinancing too often, you lose ground every time you re-up any loan for the same term.
Don’t start the habit of accumulating things — get out and have adventures instead. It’s really only the big occasions in life that you remember what you wore — BUT — you always remember a trip and who you were with.
Keep active forever — feeling good is essential to getting up every day and looking forward to new life experiences.
Never stop learning — be curious and stay current on all new technology.
I never asked myself where I want to be in 20/30/40 years. It was not even a flicker of a thought. I never worried about retirement and what that would look like. I thought every book that professed a new idea for success was mandatory reading for me. Buying a family home was huge in my life plan but I never realized how the percentage that it took of the family income would keep adventures out of the realm of possibility. I stopped riding bikes and running on a regular basis — why?
Don’t feel bad for me. My life is good:
I have learned to not accumulate clothes or books — there are many of both that I have donated over the last 10 years. Especially those instant business success books that didn’t translate into my success.
The closets and cupboards are not hiding unknown surprises. I don’t buy the stuff that used to fill them up — never to be seen again.
I graduated from college with my Bachelor Degree later in life. It was a regret I could not ignore — it was worth everything to have that piece of paper.
I go over my financial picture every week with the help of Quicken.
I love to work and have created a career that incorporates all that I do well and look forward to in my day — I have had many jobs and took the pieces of each that I loved and created When House Is Home.
I created this website and am learning how to live in a paperless world (at work and at home). I must admit though, Minecraft still escapes me.
What would you tell your younger self? Do you regret the choices you didn’t make? Is there still time to reach your goals? I say YES!
P.S. I still need to work on bike riding and running — I will update you on my progress. . . . .