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

 

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

 

 

 

The Ebb and Flow of Life

the ebb and flow of life

I couldn’t wait to get home from work. I parked my car, got the mail, unlocked the door, stepped into my cozy living room, turned up the heat and changed into my pajamas.

It’s 3:38 in the afternoon.

It’s been a cold, unpredictable spring, with sudden changes in the weather, at work, and in the lives of the people I care about.

I’ve been struggling to find balance and momentum lately. I feel tired when I wake up in the morning and I’m disappointed in myself that I haven’t been following through in my self-care routine. I haven’t been able to keep up.

Keep up with whom or what?

When I paused to think about my feelings I realized that the standards that I fell short of were self-imposed and could easily be adjusted. Maybe I just needed to simplify my self care routine and focus on one thing right now, like meditation or writing, or even sleep. With warmer days ahead, perhaps I will focus on just getting outside and moving more.

Growth comes in many forms. Life is a process and there will be times that we move forward, times that we take a few steps back and times that we remain still, pause and reflect on how far we’ve come.

Each of these situations is an opportunity for growth.

“Being fully present isn’t something that happens once and then you have achieved it; it’s being awake to the ebb and flow and movement and creation of life, being alive to the process of life itself.”

~Pema Chodron

Lose Your Stuff And Find Yourself

I really didn’t have a game plan, I just knew that getting rid of things made me feel better. Over time, letting go of the clothes, household goods, personal items, relationships and commitments that didn’t “add value to my life,” to quote The Minimalists (https://www.theminimalists.com/), allowed me to focus on what was beneath it all!

At first it was a little overwhelming. Without all of the distractions, I had no choice but to examine myself.

I’ve always felt like a square peg in a round hole and rather than get to know and embrace who I was, I found it easier to fulfill the various roles that I held: daughter, sister, friend, student, wife, mother, teacher. There was some sense of comfort in knowing what each role required and carrying out my “duties” to perfection.

But perfection isn’t ever attainable. I found that I was constantly concerned that I wasn’t meeting my high standards (or my assumptions of what others’ expected)  and exhausted for continually trying. I felt inauthentic. 

This time was different. I had simplified my life to the point of having fewer distractions and in grieving the loss of my dad realized that, while roles are fleeting and can disappear at any moment, who we are at our core is constant.

This time, I decided to remain focused on my simplicity journey and myself. I let go of the need to be in control, the expectations of others and the all or nothing attitude. These things hadn’t served me well, in fact, they depleted me.

I’ve shed many of my old habits and replaced them with what makes me feel balanced and happy (close relationships, meditation, nature, to name a few). I’ve written about them and my self-care routine in earlier essays if you want to read about them in more detail.  

I bring who I am to every relationship, rather than what I think any role might dictate.

Being authentic and following my heart is surprisingly easy. Simplifying me has made things less complicated, more carefree and lighter. I’m happier and able to focus my time and energy on what’s really important and meaningful to me and those that I love.

Who knew that losing my stuff would lead to finding myself?

Lose Your Stuff And Find Yourself

In the moment with Ellie!

Thanks so much for reading! Writing is something that I really enjoy doing. It helps me sort things out, in a way, and I hope that by sharing my personal journey I can help someone else or make even one person feel less alone. Please share if you’ve connected with my message and/or if you think someone else might. Thank you! xox

Jeanne

 

 

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!

Liberation is the Opposite of Perfection

liberation is the opposite of perfection

“Liberation is the opposite of perfection.”

I’m not sure when I first heard this quote or who said it, but it really struck a chord with me. I think of it often when I get stuck on how experiences have to be, how I must look or how relationships have to play out.

Most of the time, I can talk myself through a given situation by using some of the positive habits I’ve developed over the last few years and not feel like a failure if things aren’t perfect. I’ve even learned to cherish some of the times that things aren’t exactly as planned, since they often lead to some pretty interesting and awesome unexpected results. It’ feels rewarding when this happens and when I notice that loosening my grip had something to do with it.

As I was planning my Thanksgiving dinner, I realized that consumerism  and perfectionism are a match made in heaven. We keep buying things until we feel that what we have is perfect. With an infinite number of options, we are able to purchase the right outfit for the right occasion, the right beauty products for the right season, and even the right tableware for each  holiday.

I’m not  opposed to being festive and colorful during the holiday season, but I have decided that my Thanksgiving dinner will be wonderful because of the people around the table, not because I have the perfect turkey cocktail napkins.

Using what we have, buying only what we need and purchasing multi purpose items reduces the stuff we own and simplifies our life. By simplifying our lives, we have more time to do what we love with the people that we love.

I’m so grateful that I’ve been simplifying my life and that I’ve gotten to the point that the desire to keep it simple is greater than the need to be perfect! It is liberating!

 

 

 

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