Saturday, September 26, 2015

Breaking Camp

I've been looking so long at these pictures of youThat I almost believe that they're realI've been living so long with my pictures of youThat I almost believe that the pictures areAll I can feel                     --The Cure

     My husband and I are following the KonMari Method of housecleaning. For the last two days, based on the recommendations in this book, we are systematically decluttering our house. The book recommends working by item type rather than room, and dealing with like items all at once. Our experience of this has been terribly effective so far, resulting in several bags of clothes and several boxes of books donated. The process makes sense, doing things in this way; it is easier to stay focused when you only have to look at one category at a time and you have 'permission' to set certain things aside for later. It is a deceptive simplicity-- I see this process as being a bit like a hiking trail; the first piece of the trail by the park office is smooth and wide and easy going, but as you ascend, it gets a little narrower, a little more rocky, a whole lot harder.
     When I was unearthing boxes from the bottom of our closet, I found a box that I assumed was mostly books but quickly discovered was more than half journals. Now, journals fall into the realm of the dead last, final hundred yards of the precipitous climb to Mt. Organized.  Miss Kondo believes that after working your way through all the mundane categories, rigorously eliminating anything that does not serve you or give you joy, you will be better prepared to make necessary ruthless edits of your sentimental items.  I am a sentimental saver of the highest order so I appreciated her permission to delay, as long as possible, what I imagined would be a difficult task.
     But here were the journals, in a very 'right now' stack, staring at me. I gingerly explored the idea of getting rid of them, as one pokes a tentative tongue at a possibly sore tooth. Could I do this? Should I? Panic set in. What would it mean to let these things go? What does it mean to keep them? How hard would it be to page through them and look at them? I shoved the two oldest ones in my bag and took them to work. They covered 1987-1991, the years spanning my senior year of high school to early in my junior year of college. (I didn't write every day, obviously.)  These two volumes were significant in that they covered my first relationship, the dissolution of same, and all that came after in the getting over it and other things. There was evidence of hilarious pranks, photos I hadn't looked at in years, and other memorabilia captured in plastic scrapbook corners. And though it scared me a little, I knew that I could let them go. I liberated them from their bindings and split them into shredder friendly pieces. I saved a couple of letters, a poem written by my husband (just a friend at the time), a photo or two.  I noticed that neither book captured the memories that stand out in my mind, the friends I had and still have, the places I went and all of those moments where you breathe in joy and as your heart pounds in your ears you are absolutely convinced that nothing could possibly be more amazing than to be alive in that very moment. Those things live in me, they are part of who I am. The rest I fed into the shredder, filling the bin with the smell of old paper.

Tonight I shredded the rest of the stack. With every handful of paper I said to myself, "Now I choose to move forward." I didn't realize how much I'd let myself be burdened by the past until I let it go. And although I broke the rules a little bit, I needed to take some rocks out of my pack so I can make the rest of the climb.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Find the Cost of Freedom

Find the cost of freedom
Buried in the ground
Mother Earth will swallow you
Lay your body down  
                              --Stephen Stills

     I left work with this song in my head this morning. The long guitar intro, longer than the singing, sprang into my brain almost audibly as I walked out of work into the too bright morning, hit the wipers once to clear the morning dew from my windshield, and started down the long hill to my short ride home. I don't know why.
     It was a rough night for some, poor choices, a horrific accident, and a scene that left a crew, by the end of the night, numb and mute. I got thinking about the finite internal resources that propel a person into that sort of carnage, willingly, regularly, and for free.  Night after night, they will come. They will leave half eaten dinners and broken promises of quality time and they will come. They will run, they will scramble into hot uncomfortable coats and heavy helmets and they will come. They will spend themselves into the broken fragments of a night, sweep up the broken glass, and you may never know their names. They will carry pictures they do no want to carry. Sounds they wish they'd never heard. Without judgement or expectation. And today, tomorrow, they will do it again without hesitation.

Never question for a moment that there are angels among you.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The First Agreement

The word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is a tool of magic. But like a sword with two edges, your word can create the most beautiful dream or your word can destroy everything around you. -- don Miguel Ruiz, "The Four Agreements"
Recently my husband and my father in law tackled a big messy project in our back yard. An invasive species of bamboo, not the tall pretty Crouching Tiger-y type, but the bunchy, ugly, yard overcoming sort that can grow before your eyes on a rainy day. It formed a giant bush that nearly bisected our yard. They spent the better part of the day hacking out this mess and loading it onto the back of my father in law's truck to take it to the borough yard waste dump. It wasn't fun, but it was necessary.

I feel like I'm undertaking a similar project in my life. We are in a season of chaos-before-order, uprooting clutter, uprooting habits that threatened to take over, uprooting thought patterns that are invasive and unpretty. It is hard work, but it is necessary. I recently read don Miguel Ruiz' the Four Agreements and have found it enormously helpful in addressing some of the 'soul clutter' that needs clearing.

The first agreement, be impeccable with your word, is something I misunderstood on the surface. I always took that to mean 'do what you say you are going to do', which, while noble and always a good policy, is not what he's talking about. Being impeccable with your word means not filling the air with opinions that don't do anyone any good. It means not bringing negativity to a space and sharing it when it does no actual good.  He talks about ideas that 'poison' other people, impressions of others that we share that others may accept as truth and act on accordingly. It is a tough thing to think about. I find myself reviewing unkind words or acidic assessments of other people I've spoken that were likely taken as truth (or humor) just as I have taken others' opinions as truth, when in fact, I am only speaking out of my own reality, as they are speaking out of theirs. I think about how bad it would be if I was characterized forever by my worst day, or my most erroneous belief, or my unkindest comment.

I have a really good memory. This is helpful in many contexts but it is a bit of a torment when I can remember mean or stupid things I said fifteen years ago with absolute clarity. And I do remember. So one of the tasks before me as I indulge in the order-before-chaos of being who I really want to be is to uproot this habit of saying more than I should and not imposing my dream as reality on other people. My mother in law is fond of quoting a Bible verse which says that the power of life and death are in the tongue. This First Agreement is very much about using that power for life.