Cumulative Emotions

Did you ever notice how certain emotions attract similar emotions and how quickly we can end up with a heavy heart? That when we feel sad or disappointed over one thing, we find ourselves scanning our range of experiences for other things that may make us or may have made us feel sad or disappointed? Before we know it, two days can go by and we find ourselves under the covers contemplating the ills of society and evaluating every interaction we’ve had in every one of our relationships!

cumulative emotions3

I don’t necessarily consider emotions like anxiety and depression to be “negative” in the short term and I actually think they could be useful when we work through them, but when they open the gates to other thought patterns that don’t serve us well and we begin to feel defeated by them, we need to be mindful of what’s happening and how we can change our thoughts and feelings.

This time of year can be especially overwhelming and difficult to manage emotionally for so many reasons. I know it is for me. I’ve worked hard to develop a self care routine to keep me balanced but I get thrown off occasionally and find that I still need fresh insight into how I can make improvements.

I think the concept of minimalism can be useful to break the cycle of negative thought patterns and cumulative (unwanted) emotions. For example, I use the “one in, one out” rule with clothes and some home furnishing items to keep my home free of things I don’t need, find useful, or that don’t bring me joy. If I purchase a new pair of jeans, I get rid of an old pair.

What if we applied this practice to our emotions? If we find we are experiencing a feeling that we don’t need, find useful or that doesn’t bring us joy, we can notice it and then we can try to replace it with one that does.

It’s difficult not to feel the inhumanity in the world when watching even five minutes of the evening news. Rather than dwelling on this feeling, I’ve been focusing on connecting with people, being present when I do, and being as kind as possible.

I was in a very crowded store recently with long lines and as I was waiting to speak with someone from customer service, I noticed a woman pacing back and forth looking for an available cashier. At one point, she literally stomped her feet. Since the customer service rep was also ringing up people, I suggested to this woman that she could come over to my line because there was no one waiting behind me. She finally agreed and pushed her cart over to me.

Rather than feeling anger towards this woman at her impatience or intimidated by her behavior, I felt compassion for her. She looked frantic! I asked her if she was OK. She replied, “No, I don’t drive in the dark!” As I looked outside, I noticed the sun was setting and it was beginning to get dark.

This was so powerful since I immediately felt a connection to her instead of any type of judgement or fear. I don’t like to drive in the dark either. Unlike her, I wasn’t alone and my husband would be driving home.

I think positive emotions can be cumulative too and of course we would like to be open to a heart filled with kindness, compassion, gratitude  and love!

So next time you find yourself experiencing feelings that you don’t need, find useful or that don’t bring you joy, invest in ones that do!

 

I hope you have found this post helpful. Please let me know what you think.

I’ve written many other posts about feelings and how I’m learning to manage mine. Here are a few:

https://beallthere.net/2014/02/22/the-power-of-positive-thinking/

https://beallthere.net/2014/12/06/feeling-gray/

https://beallthere.net/2015/08/22/funkytown-just-passing-through

cumulative emotions2.jpg

 

Dear Future Self

dear future self

I recently received a letter in the mail from myself, written about a year ago while I was taking a mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) class. I’d like to share it with you as a reminder that we are all imperfect works in progress, and that this is what connects us to a collective humanity.

Perhaps you need to read this today. Please pass it on if you can think of someone else that may need a friendly reminder that we are all perfectly imperfect.

xox

~Jeanne

Dear Future Self,

Mindfulness is a journey, not a destination. After my 8 week MBSR course I realize that life, relationships, my mood, etc. will never be perfect (or what I perceive to be perfection).

These things are part of who I am and humanity is not static, but a constant work in progress.

And so I’ve come to realize that, although I’m not perfect, I’m human, and that is enough.

~Your Present Self

Balance

balance

I heard a statement recently that made me reframe my thinking. As I attempted to balance on one knee and one hand during a gentle yoga sequence (audio), the speaker said,

Balance is not static, but consists of tiny, constant movements and adjustments.

My whole body shook from side to side. I tried to shore myself up from my center so I wouldn’t fall over.

This experience made me think about how I view my life when different aspects aren’t, what I consider to be, “optimal.” When I’m feeling defeated at work, one of my relationships is strained, I’m not as kind or positive as I’d like to be or I’m choosing too much screen time over self-care, I feel as if I’m sucking at life.

What I’ve come to realize is that life, by definition, is never balanced, nor is it static.

It consists of tiny, constant movements and adjustments.

We just have to center ourselves as much as possible (and try not to fall over).

I know this can be a difficult time of year for some. The holidays are approaching and the days are getting shorter and colder.

I know I have less energy, my mood is lower and I’m really missing my parents. If you read some of my previous posts, you might even notice that my writing is more introspective this time of year. I’m definitely feeling the feelings.

Although my life isn’t ever static, it’s become much more balanced. If you’re interested, I wrote an essay on what I know works for me. You can read about it here: https://beallthere.net/2015/06/20/be-all-there/

Wishing you balance (and peace) now and always.

Love,

Jeanne xox

 

 

 

Dear Mom

Pink Rose in the sun

Now I know why you didn’t like to get your picture taken. Sometimes I don’t recognize myself in pictures. I take them anyway, since looking at them brings me joy and reminds me that I have a great life!

I know why you spent all of your time with your family at the expense of outside friendships. I want to focus on the people who are most important to me. Some of my friends are like family to me.

Now I know why you always preferred to work in an office where you were the only woman. Relationships, particularly with other women,  can be difficult. They can be complicated and painful, and at the same time they can be joyful and loving. I have learned a lot about myself through the lens of my relationships with others.

I understand how it annoyed you when dad made a mess of your kitchen when he cooked. I’m glad that familial roles have blurred and aren’t as clearly defined anymore. I think that this has made us relate in a different, more intimate way as a family.

I know that you loved me equally as much as my older brother and sisters, even if you didn’t exactly plan to have a fourth child. I couldn’t imagine how I would possibly love another child as much as my first-born son. My heart found a way when my daughter was born.

I know how happy it made you when all of your children got along with each other (we still do)! I love that mine do and take comfort that they will always have each other.

Now I realize how much your happiness was tied to ours, when my kids are happy, I’m happy.

Now I understand why you were so upset when I moved to another state, even though it was only an hour away. It meant that we wouldn’t see each other as often. I feel the most full when I’m with my kids and miss them whenever we’re apart.

I know how difficult it must have been when your mom passed away and how much you missed her every single day. I know how many times you must have wanted to pick up the phone to talk about your day, hear words of encouragement, share some happy or sad news or just to hear her voice. I know how important that unconditional love was to you and how, with your mom, no matter how old you were, she would always make you feel loved and protected.

I miss you terribly and it’s not the same without you.

But now I realize that I was always capable of loving myself just like you always had.

Making New Habits (Mindful Shopping)

shopping

Old habits and routines are hard to break. I used to go shopping at least one day a week, usually on the weekend, and most of the time I didn’t really need anything.

My routine was the same. I would be on the hunt for one or two things, like the perfect shirt or home good. I liked to canvass the entire store, check out what was new, take a closer look at some things along the way, and I was sure to check out the sale items. I didn’t miss anything! 

These days I don’t go shopping unless I really need something or just to tag along with someone else. I spend my time and money doing other things.

But old habits are hard to break. I’ve been in my small house for a few months now and I felt I needed to create more storage space in my cabinets by putting some items in baskets. My plan was to take a few of the lighter things out of the drawers in a dining room hutch, put them into decorative baskets and put them on top of the hutch. This would free up some drawer space for other things.

I knew exactly which baskets I wanted to buy, too. They were dark brown and rectangular shaped, with a lid. My daughter and I went to a craft store where I had seen them before. I was excited to find exactly what I was looking for!

And then I started to second guess myself. Perhaps the baskets should be a little bigger. After all, if they were going to free up some cabinet space, the more space freed up, the better, right? What am I even making room for? All of my stuff fits in my cabinets now and I’m not planning on buying a bunch of new stuff. This minimalism thing is really working for me. What was I thinking?

After talking things through with my very patient daughter, I realized that I didn’t need the baskets to free up more space since I didn’t need more space. We left the store empty-handed and grateful that we didn’t have to wait in the long check out line.

I think we are so conditioned to shop, buy things and create more space for more things that we’re not even mindful of what we’re doing. It just becomes routine and automatic.

Thinking things through and being mindful of my purchases is a new way of thinking and being. And I like it!

What’s Under All of Our Stuff?

It’s been a year of do-ing. We sold our big house and did a major remodel on a house less than half its size. We sold, donated or discarded most of our stuff, except for the contents of one container of things that we weren’t sure we wanted or would fit in our small home once we placed the furniture that we were definitely keeping. That container was a source of comfort, at first, but quickly became a source of stress. Deep down I knew we’d have to get rid of most of its contents,  since these things wouldn’t fit in our new space. I scheduled a pick up date for the container so that we would have a deadline to have it emptied.  We pared down yet another bunch of stuff, kept only what we wanted and would fit in our tiny loft storage, and met our deadline.

We are continuously organizing what we decided to keep and have been working on creative storage solutions for our living space. This has actually been interesting and fun! It’s also been an exercise in patience. It takes time to fully understand and identify a need, since it’s based on our family’s habits over time. Once the need is determined, I try to figure out an attractive, useful, space-saving system that works. For example, instead of a bulky desk in the corner of our dining room to store some office supplies, we are going with open boxes made of left over reclaimed lumber that hang on the wall. The office supplies will be tucked into attractive baskets that slide into the boxes.

The do-ing has finally slowed down and I’ve had more time to just, “be.” Minimalism can expose emotions we didn’t know we had or new feelings can arise from living in a smaller space with less stuff.  

I couldn’t even identify or put into words what I was feeling at first, I just felt out of sorts and cranky. I finally realized that I needed some down time after work and quiet time, in general, to think and process what I was thinking and feeling. In our bigger home, time to myself was automatic, given the amount of space we had. Oftentimes, I would be in our bedroom reading and my husband would be two floors down watching television. Or one of us would be starting dinner while the other one would be sitting on the porch. We always looked forward to a family dinner together and spending the rest of the evening in the same space.

With less physical boundaries creating separate space for alone time, I’ve had to communicate my needs and have had to learn how to be alone while sharing the same space.  As I write this post, my daughter is watching football and my husband is lighting a fire after working outside for a few hours. We are all in the same space, doing our own thing. It works!

What’s under all of our stuff? I guess it depends on what we make of it. I decided to plant grass seed in the bare spot left from where the storage container sat in our front yard.
under all our stuff

Bag of Tricks

There’s almost nothing that a nap, yoga and a cup of herbal tea (and a farm full of animals) can’t cure.

 

catskill animal sanctuary

The Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties, NY

 

I haven’t written in a while about feeling anxious or depressed, since I’ve been feeling pretty balanced. Although I’m curious about why I feel the way that I do, I try not to dwell too much on what I can’t control, and move on.

The truth is, I still have moments when I feel a little low and dwell a little longer than I’d like.

I’m so grateful that I have a menu of things to choose from to help me feel better and more balanced during these times. I think of these things, collectively, as my bag of tricks because they have proven, time and time again, to be helpful.

Some of the things in my bag of tricks are gardening, walking, hiking or just being outside, playing with Ellie, my daughter’s dog, meditation, healthy eating, writing and getting together with people I love. I choose what I need depending on how I feel, the weather and who or what is available.

I felt a little low recently and not very motivated at all. It was a cool, rainy day. I took a nap, did yoga and had a cup of one of my favorite herbal teas. I felt better!

Holding a chicken is pretty awesome too!

What’s in your bag of tricks?