We are so busy accumulating possessions that the storage business is BIG business. Even amid the minimalism movement, we still buy, store and buy some more. Don’t get me wrong, I love my stuff like everyone else. I particularly love my electronic devices, books as well as art and needlework supplies. The daily use of these things give me pleasure. But are they necessary? No. But they sure make life more fun.
I am writing this blog post from a booth at a breakfast restaurant. Thanks to technology I can take a Bible with me everywhere I go. An app for my blogging platform allows me to snap a picture and write whenever the spirit moves me. This is a wonderful thing. I never know when God is going to move my heart and I don’t have to risk forgetting; I can share anytime, anywhere.
I know that God is with me always…but now I can spontaneously share where He leads and what He is teaching…and so can you!
In less than a week I embark on my three day retreat in the woods. As is typical for me I am planning my entertainment first. I will take care of other details such as food and clothing after I know I will not get bored and resort to driving to civilization for a quick dopamine fix. The weather is not cooperating so no flannel shirt and matching bandana for cute matchy-matchy pictures with Maggie, but I will find temperature friendly attire in which to document our big adventure.
Going Analog – Almost
I am vacillating on how much technology to take with me. The cabin does not have WiFi, so I will have to download entertainment should I choose to watch. But…I am leaning towards leaving it all behind and only use what is possible without a connection to the internet. I will have my phone so the possibility exists to partake should I choose to do so. I must download media first so there has to be forethought and intent. Today, a week away, I am resolutely in the camp of music only. I’ll let you know how that goes as the week progresses.
Currently this is my entertainment packing list:
• Sock knitting project plus a back up if I get bored or finish
• Journal with favorite pen
• Morning pages notebook
• Books: The Artist’s Way, The Creative Cure, Faith Of A Writer, Bird by Bird, On Writing Well, and American Primative by Mary Oliver
• Binoculars for nature watching
I am craving solitude and silence. The guest house has a special box for phones. It isn’t mandatory and the phones are retrievable at any time, but it is a tangible act; a willingness to set aside the attachment to devices for a prescribed period of time. I will keep in touch with my husband who will worry the entire time I am gone. I will text him each morning and evening to let him know I am alive and well, but then the phone goes back into the box. I will wear my Apple watch which has a locator on it so that if I am walking Maggie he can see where I am. I consider this as much for my safety as his peace of mind.
What Lessons Are In Store For Me?
For one thing I hope to be reminded that I am enough. I am capable and I can survive on my own. It is one thing to be safe in my home alone; it is another to be in the woods, possibly with no one around for miles. I have lived in a large and often scary city most of my adult life and I have succumbed to the fear. I need this adventure for me.
As you can probably tell by my reading list I want to learn and grow as a writer. I hesitate to even use the word ‘writer’ about myself as I don’t have, what I perceive to be, the requisite education for such a title. And this is precisely the fear I am seeking to overcome. I believe I have been given a gift. Writing gives me a sense of purpose and fullness unlike any other creative pursuit. I have pursued many things; all have led to a sense of emptiness and defeat. I write and I feel fulfilled. I click ‘publish’ and I have accomplished my daily goal. Therefore, I suppose, I am a writer. My seeking is about the direction of my writing and am I doing all that I am able and born to do? My heart’s desire is to write even one blog post, story or essay that resonates and makes a difference.
I want to be ensconced in God’s creation while leaving myself open for whatever it is I need to hear. Reassurance. Direction. Guidance. Comfort. It could be any mix of those things or possibly something I haven’t even thought of yet. I am open. I want to be still and sensitive to the still small voice of God. That gentle nudging or the sudden confirmation that I am going in the best direction for me. I don’t want to miss anything because I am distracted.
As I stand poised on the precipice of a new chapter, I feel like a dandelion puff. I am full of life experiences and ready to send them out into the world to plant, germinate and grow to repeat the cycle. If I send forth seeds of love, empathy, kindness, and humor there are no boundaries to what God can do with my tiny little effort.
Today is the first day of November; 2021 is drawing to a close and my favorite time of year is rushing by far too quickly.
The last three months of any year means different things to different people. It can be the season when summer is finally over; the financial fourth quarter and time to focus on ending the business year successfully; or in years like 2020, relief that the end is in sight.
I fall firmly in the first camp. Houston summers are legendary and true fall weather doesn’t usually arrive until the end of October and even then it is fleeting. But, I embrace whatever we receive and rejoice in the cool dry temperatures. I feel energized and optimistic.
This year I have stopped to ponder and analyze what these three months represent in relationship to the big picture of life. Each month is significant and represents some very powerful life lessons. For now we will look at October and November. December will come in due time.
The month known for brilliant colored leaves, pumpkins, and Halloween is my favorite month of the year. It is a month of anticipation…when will the weather change, the leaves turn, and how much longer before we can wear scarves, hats and sweaters without looking ridiculous? There is so much about October to love.
We have made four trips to New England in October. We are overdue; it is time to go leaf peeping again. The fall sky is a particular shade of blue. Brilliantly blue without the harsh glare of the summer sun. The gold, red, and orange leaves stand in stark contrast to this blue sky and the affect is almost three dimensional. It is beyond breathtaking and should be experienced at least once in your life. Vermont is the most gorgeous place for fall leaf peeping. It is an idyllic place that must be experienced in person.
Once the brilliance of the leaves burns out, they wither and fall to the ground. In the perfect cycle of life, they must die so that the tree can rest during the harsh winter months. Those leaves, in turn, decay and nourish the ground which feeds the tree. What a beautiful metaphor for so many areas of life.
I am in the October of my life. I hope this season lasts for a very long time. I have completed most of my early and mid life tasks. The final one is in the home stretch right now, so maybe I’m still in the last days of September…but either way the best is on the way.
And this brings us to November. In our house November ushers in hunting season. The preparation for this season actually begins in August. By November the rut is underway and the time comes to go sit in a stand for hours waiting on just the right buck to cross into the right-of-way. I am not a hunter. I am a deer hunting widow for the better part of November and December.
Early in our marriage I resented him getting to go out into the woods with his friends and have a grand time while I was ‘stuck’ at home. I’m over it. I now relish this time as I view it as the gift that it is. With age comes wisdom.
I used to book a weekend to myself for the first full weekend of November. Then we had a beach house for a while and I went there for opening weekend. For several years I have just stayed home enjoying the peace and quiet. But I am still home. There are still things to be done – or ignored only to have to face them later. This year I decided to do something for myself again. I am simultaneously excited and nervous.
I have booked a tiny house in the woods for two nights. There is no WiFi, but all the other conveniences are available. I plan on reading, writing, knitting on my sock project, walking in the woods and taking a few pictures. Mostly I want to spend time in nature. I feel the presence of God most deeply when I am surrounded by trees and the expanse of His creation. I find myself in awe and so very grateful to Him for the beauty and serenity.
And that brings me to the significance of November. Yes, we in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving, but I think the entirety of November is a time for thankfulness.
Thankful for time to prepare for winter’s rest.
Thankful for life, breath, and each new day.
Thankful for pain because it is a necessary part of life.
Thankful for the people in our lives.
The list could and should go on and on. In the world of mindfulness we are instructed to write down the things we are grateful for so that we take nothing for granted. I have never subscribed to this practice as I would likely only express gratitude for the good stuff, get frustrated because I couldn’t think of something new every day and ultimately feel like a failure and give up. Instead, I thank God each morning for a new day and all that it brings. I am constantly thankful to Him for every aspect of life, the good and the not so good as it all serves a purpose.
Just like the leaves letting go of their hold on the tree and falling to death below, the heart breaks and disappointments in life serve as a foundation for new growth. I embrace them and know that only good will come from the experience as long as I am connected to the One who makes all things right.
Five of my most formative years were spent in this home. It looked different in 1969. It was newer, had fewer plants in the yard, and to my childlike eye, much larger and more grand.
This is the house we moved into when we left California for Texas. When my parents told me and my brother where we were moving I screamed, in classic old Hollywood style, and asked if we were going to have to ride horses. I then ran to my room sobbing. I was just sure life as I had known it was over. Despite my dramatic response, we did indeed move to the end of the world.
Yes, literally to the end of the United States as the town where we moved was located in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. A literal stone’s throw from the Mexican border. I didn’t know it at the time, but Texas would wrap me up and make me an honorary citizen. I had found my place in the world and for all practical purposes I have spent the rest of my life here.
In my mind’s eye, the house is frozen in time. I can still see the terrazzo floors and the long hallway to the bedrooms. My brother and I would ‘skate’ in our socks down that hall and our poor dog could never get traction as she ran to chase a toy.
My bedroom was behind the window on the far right, my brother’s was next to mine and then the big window was the formal living room. Back then it didn’t have a garage. A carport was often the choice of home builders in the late 1950s. From the carport a small room was added that became my mom’s sewing room, and that led into the family room. This home was way ahead of its time as it had an open concept kitchen/dining/family room. And this is where most of life happened.
Fifty two years have gone by since we moved into this little midcentury home. The years have seen a great deal and taken their toll on both of us. Like me, a little saggy around the edges – nothing a little care and a manicure wouldn’t fix – but we are both still standing while providing comfort and shelter for our families and friends. The years I spent living in this home took me from a prepubescent girl entering the sixth grade (then still a part of elementary school) to a sixteen year old excited to drive and navigate the issues of high school. So much of who I am today began while living in this home in Harlingen Texas.
Going back to childhood memories is almost always a bittersweet activity. Nothing remains the same; time does not stand still nor should we. Life is meant to be experienced as we move forward ever evolving into the perfection for which we were created. Sometime there is value in a quick glimpse backwards before moving forward again.
For more years than I can recall, my soul has longed to write. I start blogs, then I give up. I journal for a while then I give up. Why? Fear…fear of what might happen if I succeeded and the expectations that come with that success.
We all have those things that cry out from the depths of our souls; passions, drives, those themes that seem to recur regularly as we travel the path of life. I believe we are all created to add to and make this world a better place. Our lives are not without purpose or value. God placed us here at a certain time and in a certain place for a reason. Ours is to stay connected so that we may live out that higher purpose and complete the task we were assigned.
Don’t get caught up in the idea that only big things count as callings. Being a kind and caring person to all you meet, while important for all of us, some folks just seem to effortlessly be at the right place to help. And in so doing, they fulfill their calling. It is the simple things. It is act of doing what you feel most strongly about in a way that fulfills your spirit and makes the world a better place.
Conquering The Fear
My Fear Monster has controlled my life for too long. I may never get published, but I will write. However, writing is not my calling. Writing, the art and craft of using words for a specific purpose, is the vehicle for my calling. Every job, task, or activity that has had meaning and provided me with a sense of fulfillment have all shared one commonality. In all things I was able to help others. Professionally I was a nurse, an assistant teacher, church receptionist, and shop owner. I am a dismal businesswoman, but I excel at assisting and guiding people. I tried to stay in business for the mere purpose of selling items I had made. I hate it. I have to force myself to do it; thus I fail. My calling isn’t making and selling. I can do it but it robs my soul of joy. From the day forward I choose joy over fear.
So, how to find and live out your purpose? In a word, listen. In the stillness of the early morning light, quiet your mind, and listen. Listen for that still small voice inside. It takes practice to be fully quiet and present, but keep trying. Just a few minutes a day is all it takes. Give yourself this gift. First thing in the morning before the rest of the world wakes up, take time to listen.
Ritual, as a part of focusing the mind to hear and listen (yes, they are different), is important. Small things we do to prepare alert our mind that something special is about to happen. I am not great at setting up and keeping rituals. I love the idea but in practice am not great at it.
I finally have my desk area set up and this is now where I spend my mornings. I light my candle, sip my coffee, read from my Bible and devotional books, write by hand in a journal and I listen. I wait. Because that still small voice may not arrive today, but it will arrive and when it does I want to be ready. Ready to hear and respond.
I believe there is an inner longing and purpose inside each of us. If only we, as human beings, would spend as much time looking inward to become better people as we do looking outward at what others are doing (or not doing), the good would soon outweigh the bad and the world would really be a beautiful place to live.
A soft, filtered light streams in between the slats of the blinds, gently illuminating the room. It is quiet in here. No television. No radio. No other people. I am lulled into a state of peaceful contemplation by the sound of clothes as they roll around in the dryer, and just now the low rumble of thunder breaks through to remind me of the weather.
The remnants of a tropical Pacific storm are now moving through Texas. Gusty winds and rain have been my companions today. These are my favorite days. Alone in my thoughts with cloudy skies and rain to provide a soothing backdrop for whatever I choose to do. I cherish today as tomorrow is promised to be hot and muggy.
The wind comes in waves; tree limbs bend as water is shed from their leaves. Rain beats against the window with an ever quickening rhythm, lulling me into sweet slumber.
Necessary Rest and Diversions
I haven’t been sleeping well of late and it has taken a toll on me. So many things running through my mind and I wonder, how others seem to do it. How do some people live lives filled with just what they want and not fretting about the minutia. Because it is generally the minutia that wears me down. I carry thoughts, worries, and what ifs around like stones in a bag and then wonder why I am mentally and physically exhausted.
These days none of the usual pastimes help. Making yarn then crocheting, knitting or weaving with it used to fill the need to create and brought a calming peace to my soul. And, maybe one day it will again. But for right now all the stuff feels like a burden. A burden that needs to be set aside.
As I have written before I have had a life long love affair with books and reading. I set the activity of reading aside for many years as I was “too busy” and seemed to fall asleep every time I picked up a book. But the love for books themselves never left and I always feel a deep sense of comfort when surrounded by them. I believe that I am now entering a season in my life where reading and writing are about to take center stage in my life.
Quenching The Thirst
Of late I find myself hungry for knowledge. I want to know more, see more, experience more things. I am no longer content to sit passively by and just live in the status quo. My first reaction was, “I need to finally go to college.” And while that is a pursuit I have not ruled out, I don’t think that alone will satiate my longings.
At this moment in time, having fulfilled all the early life tasks, career, raising children and now a grandchild, we – I include my husband in this journey – are at the brink of a bold new life and I don’t want to leave any stone unturned. It is not enough to live a simple life, although that is a big portion of the goal, but to live a simple life fully. And for me that means learning, seeing, exploring and then sharing my experiences.
It means reading history and visiting places to feel the lessons from the past. Learning about the struggles of others and changing in me whatever needs to be changed to be a more loving person. It means learning new skills, eating new foods, moving forward to do those things we have only talked about for thirty years. It means living each day in a way that honors God and who He created me to be.
Do Not Fear
Fear is an ugly monster. It lives inside all of us and takes on so many different disguises. We learn to ignore, squelch and run from our fears, but until we stop, turn around and boldly face the fear monster, we are never free.
The concepts of “trust” and “do not fear” appear in scripture more than anything else. There is a reason for this. God knows we need to hear it over and over and over again. For those of you who do not believe in God, you have the same need, you simply look for your answers elsewhere. But we all have this internal anxiety.
What is my Fear Monster? Being thought of and called out as stupid, uneducated, and unworthy of an opinion. I have cowered in the face of fear and that is not the life we are called to live. I have allowed it to stop me from doing something I love and believe I’ve been given the gift to do well.
I write for the pure joy it brings me to “put pen to paper” and craft something that is funny, poignant, educational or just a personal brain dump. I don’t know that I could ever write assignment based articles. Oh, I suppose I could but they would not bring the satisfaction of sitting down to share what is happening in my head and my heart. Once complete I send my little essays off into the world to be read – or not – content that I had expressed myself. No worries about money, readership, egos, rejection letters…nope, just the satisfaction that I had completed what I set out to do. I really am a simple, low maintenance kind of person.
Who Am I?
I never noticed how often dandelions are used for logos and branding. Have you? It wasn’t until I decided that I am a dandelion in human form that I noticed dandelions, both realistic and stylized, are extremely common in branding. Trying to find a blog name containing the word dandelion that had an available URL was impossible. All the cool ones had already been taken. Don’t let the superficiality of that sentence fool you. There is a deeper meaning which I will get to a little later. Back to my personal branding.
For years I struggled to “brand” myself. In the fiber art world I have had so many social media handles many people just give up. No wonder I could never build a following. No one knew who I was going to be on any given day. My struggle was much deeper than the look and feel of my online presence. I was struggling to find me, my identity, my purpose in the world wrapped up in a cute logo with just the right pithy tag line. Funny how things work out; the harder I tried the more lost I became.
Three years ago I came across the story of a woman who continues to inspire me to this day. Trudy Smith was an artist. She had an artist’s heart and soul but didn’t live out her life’s purpose until she turned 85.
Trudy described herself as a “misfit” in her family. She didn’t fit in. She certainly didn’t conform to society’s definition of how a woman was expected to live. So she kept to herself, feeling like a weed in the middle of a flower bed. But Trudy was no ordinary weed. Is there even such a thing as an ordinary weed? Trudy knew about her passion for art but it didn’t fit, so she spent her life doing what was socially acceptable for her to do. She obeyed her father. Married a man who was much like her father in his stern nature and rigid opinion on the role of a woman, wife and mother. But when her husband died, Trudy came to life.
She picked up her paint brush and didn’t put it down until her passing in 2018, just two months short of her 103rd birthday.
“Be a weed — then you belong to everywhere or anywhere.”
To say Trudy Smith changed my life is an understatement. Not surprisingly, I came up with a brand, bought the URL, claimed the Instagram name and was off to the races. I was going to build a brand around this theme of embracing one’s inner weed. Then doubt set in and I quit. But I have never forgotten Trudy and her wonderful words of wisdom.
How Do Weeds Live?
Many of us pay a lot of money and work very hard to keep weeds out of our lawns and gardens. We strive for a perfectly manicured environment. But, despite our best efforts, weeds still find their way into our perfectly planned garden. They suck the water and nutrients out of the soil making it harder for the plants we have so carefully chosen and inserted into the environment to survive much less thrive.
What is it about weeds that allow them to do what they do? I have a few thoughts.
First, weeds know they are weeds. Weeds are not trying to be fancy or unique. They simply find a place to live and then get about doing the best job they know how to do. Some weeds are ugly, some are beautiful, but they don’t know that. They just are living their best life.
Second, weeds adapt. They can survive with minimal food, muss or fuss. Ever notice weeds growing in the cracks of a sidewalk in the middle of a city with no other plant life visible? Yup, that is a weed for you. It finds the tiniest bit of nourishment and it goes to town. Weeds don’t need fancy. They need whatever it takes for their roots to take hold and their stems and leaves to grow. Flowers are the icing on the cake.
Finally, weeds thrive despite their circumstances. Once weeds have found a place to survive, they learn to thrive. The surroundings may not be ideal but they do what is necessary to make more weeds. Because that is what weeds do. They grow, spread, and make more weeds.
Dandelions and Me
During this “Live Like A Weed” phase I adopted the dandelion as my spirit weed. I didn’t think very deeply about why, I just love dandelions. What is not to love? Pretty little yellow flowers turn into a puff ball and then sail away to settle in and begin the process once again. I love the symbolism. And, once I began to think more deeply on the subject, I realized just how much I have in common with dandelions. Next time I will delve a little deeper on this part of the story. Until then…wherever you are, be like a weed.
Once the title of my favorite soap opera, As The World Turns is now just a descriptive phrase for life in the midst of Covid-19. The earth keeps rotating; life moves forward, day into night and back to day…and if we aren’t careful the mundaneness of it all can and will destroy our very soul. But take heart! Each one of us has the power to break free and soar. Johnny Rose and his intrepid family showed us how this can be done in the now iconic television show Schitt’s Creek.
Lessons From Schitt’s Creek
For me one of the joys of the past few weeks has been the discovery of Schitt”s Creek. I have not been living under a rock, but until the Emmy’s last year I had not heard of it. When I noticed it available on one of my multitude of cable channels I thought, “I need to watch that someday.” I never did. Then it popped up on Netflix. Now I could watch it sequentially – as it must be for full enjoyment and impact – and continuously. The continuous watching just seems to happen. I tell myself I am only going to watch one episode and before I know it my butt has been glued to my recliner for several hours. At some point I realized that there is an end point and I don’t want that to come too soon. I must savor the morsels of poignant hilarity parceled out by the Rose family and their newfound friends in Schitt’s Creek.
There are many parallels that can be drawn between life during a pandemic and a life of financial and cultural exile. As I envisage the many similarities and the mercurial peregrinations, I cannot help thinking that a pandemic does not a life make! When one person shines, we all shine. Warning, my vocabulary has been permanently influenced by the verbose Moira Rose.
The pandemic has been a barbarous infliction on all of humanity. The hows and whys aside, the trauma and pain suffered has been catastrophic. However, we, as human beings are nothing if not resilient. There has been good forged in the fire of pain.
Like the Rose clan exiled to the town of Schitt’s Creek, many families have been forced to share very close quarters which has led to dragooned intimacy and the ensuing drama. The Rose family had grown comfortable in their estranged and dysfunctional life which was fertile soil for comedy. In less glamorous ways don’t all families settle into a comfortable way of interacting such that it takes something dramatic to change?
As vaccination rates increase and restrictions decrease, life is beginning to return to “normal.” What have we learned that should permanently change how we live?
Take nothing for granted.
Every aspect of life is sacred and should be protected at all costs. Friends, family, health, freedom, speech, religion…all are under attack and deserve defending.
We are more alike than we are different.
We are living in a time when those who wish to rule over us try to maintain their power by pitting one group against another. It is commonly called identity politics. I believe that most people want the same thing – a safe place to live, food to eat, education for children, the ability to work and self mobility, the opportunity to excel, worship, love who they love, live a quiet and peaceful life.
We are not promised a tomorrow. Live through fear by taking chances, trying new things, living someplace new, experiencing something you have only dreamed about. I have a dream of living somewhere different and have found that place. This place has the kind of historic home I want to live in, it has all the amenities I am looking for and is close to all my family (within two hours counts as close to me). I am ready to live that life. How about you?
I’m not sure when I decided that October was to be my favorite month of the year. Thirty one years ago I got married in October. That could have been the beginning. Or maybe not. At what point in life do we mature to the point of not taking hours, days, much less months for granted?
I think back to my life in my twenties. It was not the most outstanding decade of my life. Married eleven days after turning twenty, I spent the next seven years growing up and realizing, though I loved my husband as a nineteen year old, the reality of building a life with someone takes more than I had to give. I was too immature to deal with the life issues required of such a relationship. By the time I realized how out of balance our relationship was, there was no recovery possible. So I left.
During those years and the few that followed I was caught up in working, paying bills, making a new marriage work, trying to be a step mom and grieving not being a biological mom. I burned out on one job only to move to another that, while providing me with wonderful opportunities, also caused me great personal stress. The stress of that job was then compounded by becoming a full time step mom to a sixteen year old grieving the death of her mother. I left the job to be home full time. There was only so much stress I could handle. I felt God calling me home to create a safe, nurturing environment for my daughter and husband. This was no easy task, but it was where I was supposed to be.
I still had not learned to relish the precious moments of life. I was still in survival mode. In fact, I feel as though much of my adult life has been spent there. Being the safety net for this broken girl to heal and grow as well as for her equally broken father, well, I think that was my calling from God at that moment in time. There are more details to our story. Details that, when viewed in retrospect, seem to point to me having been chosen for this family long before we said ‘I do.’
I stayed home for a couple of years. I love being home. But then I felt the pull to go back to work when I saw there was an opening for a receptionist at a local church. This again was the hand of God guiding me to where I needed to be at that moment in time. I was in the right place for the birth of our first granddaughter and the passing of my dad. It was a job that helped support our daughter so she could stay home for the first nine months of her daughter’s life, to bond and nurture her first born. Then it was my turn. I left the job and came home to spend a year filling the maternal emptiness inside me. And still I was so busy with the day to day of life that I don’t remember dwelling on the things I ponder today.
As many children do, ours left and returned several times before being ready to stand on her own. God has pressed into my heart that she would not permanently leave until she was mature enough and had found the man to spend her life with. A man who would love not only her but her three daughters. This process took many years. I was well into my fifties by the time I could rest knowing that she had indeed arrived at that place in her life.
So, here I am. I’m sixty two and spending most of my time relishing in the simple pleasures of a beautiful day, my husband, dogs and the various creative endeavors that bring me pleasure. I have finally let go of the constant need to produce, anticipate trends and stay ahead of anything and anyone. While I marvel at how young some people figure this out, I wonder…have they really got it all together or do they just know how to put up the facade on social media? Now, I make what I like, sell something here and there, or not. But it is all about the process and making the most of each day. And sometimes, making the most of the day means sitting outside soaking up the sun while listening to birds and swatting at flies.
Therefore, in retrospect, I think I have just now learned to treasure each moment of each day as I realize how fleeting these days really are. God has blessed me richly with the ability to be able to live this way and to Him goes all the credit for opening my eyes and heart as well as providing all the blessings I enjoy.
I pray that whatever season of life you are in right now, find simple ways to find the joy in each day. It might only be a moment, but I promise it is there. This is the true secret of making a life.
I woke up this morning to just over one hundred emails in my inboxes. This is only half the number I had been receiving. Unsubscribing from all those distribution lists is working. And it is freeing. I tend to avoid that which overwhelms me. Ironic since ignoring only escalates the problem leading to a greater sense of panic and lack of control. I don’t think about the changes I am making and wonder if I can keep this up long term; to do that adds to the “you never keep up with any kind of discipline.” Nonproductive self talk is so…nonproductive. Instead I just deal with one morning at a time and slowly move forward.
Extracting The Value
As I evaluated each company whose email I was considering stopping, I had to decide what value this company or site added to my life. The answer was none. In every single case, the answer was none. They are electronic junk mail. Not a single item made the quality of my life better, or enlightened me in some way.
The second step of this electronic simplification plan is to extract the value – even if it is mere entertainment – and discard the remainder. Since there was nothing of value in the email accounts I removed, I will now move to apps and the visual clutter of my phone.
I love puzzle games. I tell myself I am keeping my brain sharp by playing word games and putting together puzzles. I had a folder three pages long filled with games. Most bore me after a short period of time. I now have only two games, a Scrabble type game I play against anonymous people and a wooden block style puzzle. When I get bored I will delete one and find another. Gone are the days of filling mindless hours with buzzing and beeping games triggering a rush of pleasure hormones rewarding a spectacular move or a brilliant win.
I have pared down the front screen of my phone to the absolute essentials. I made my lock screen and wallpaper a dandelion to remind me that I am in this world to sow seeds of love and kindness; I can’t do that if I am absorbed with this electronic device. From here I can easily listen to music, read a book, check the weather, messages, or possibly Instagram. The lack of clutter on this screen reduces my desire to pick up the phone and scroll to the second page to find something to ‘do.’
Here is where some editing has happened and will happen again. Most of the apps on this page are never used, so why? What is the purpose of having them available.
I call it the ‘what if factor.’ What if I need to check traffic, shop, or edit a photo? What are the chances of any of those things happening on a daily basis. Slim and none and Slim left town. Evaluating, extracting and eliminating apps on this screen is my assignment today. Tomorrow I will show you where I ended up.
Having gained some mastery over the electronics in my life I will have the time, mental clarity and energy for doing things in the real world. I want to be creative, laugh, go outside (waiting for fall weather!) and live untethered to a device that promises so much yet delivers relatively little quality to my life.
For each area of life that is simplified, there is suddenly room for new and wonderful experiences. I hope that if any of this is an issue for you I have inspired critical analysis and action.