Creating S P A C E for Me

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The more curious and open to learning new things I’ve become the more I’ve realized that creating space can make some positive changes.

Space in my closets

Means that I don’t have to spend time picking through outfits that don’t fit, are out of style or aren’t flattering.

I donate clothing on a continuous basis and strictly adhere to the “one in, one out” rule: I don’t buy a new item of clothing unless I get rid of one first. This keeps my closet under control as I continue to figure out my style and what works for me. I’ve gotten many tips from Courtney Carver on how to pare down my wardrobe, and hope to get up the courage for Project 333, her minimalist fashion challenge course (https://bemorewithless.com/project-333/), soon.

Space in my cabinets

Means that I use what I love and nothing goes to waste.

I’ve eliminated duplicates, use quality items and waste less food (hiding at the bottom of my freezer or in the back of my cabinets).

Space on my countertops

Means that clean ups are easier.

Less clutter makes me feel more relaxed.

Space in my social calendar

Means that I have time to do what is meaningful to me.

I’d rather give more time and attention to fewer things than rush through an overwhelming social calendar.

Space in conversations

Means that I am a better listener and that I am able to respond rather than react.

I used to let my emotions get the best of me and feel the need to react immediately. Oftentimes, after thinking about a previous conversation, I would see things in a different way and even regret some things that I’ve said. Although I’m still working at this, I feel like I am able to provide a more thoughtful response rather than an immediate reaction.  Sometimes, “sleeping on it” really does make a difference when it comes to emotions!

Space from TV and internet

Means that I am more engaged in mind and body activities (rather than things that are mind numbing).

I was raised on TV and admit that watching television is one of my favorite pastimes, but by watching less I can do more things, especially things from my self-care routine (like yoga and meditation), that have more lasting positive effects. Since it’s easier to pick up the remote after a long day, this can be challenging for me. What has worked for me lately is reducing my screen time slowly or putting my phone out of sight for a few hours or even an entire weekend.

Creating space means

More time

More quality

More calm

More meaning

More presence

More thoughtfulness

More creativity

More self-care

More gratitude

More love

More ME

The Sum of Small Efforts

Did you ever feel as if you’ve taken two steps forward and one step back?

I’ve been feeling this way lately, but my daughter’s dog  Ellie actually reminded me  to look at the big picture and that growth shouldn’t be measured by any one act. She’s so smart.

Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.

-Robert Collier

I may have taken a step or two in the wrong direction, like when I felt I was inconsiderate to a friend,  or when I’ve eaten too much junk food or been a couch potato, or even when I’ve been mildly obsessed with the latest Twitter rant from the POTUS (or the live video feed of April, the pregnant giraffe), but it doesn’t mean I’m inconsiderate, unhealthy or not mindful.

I’ve learned so much  about what makes me happy and healthy  and have been steadily moving forward. THIS is what defines me. I’ll never be perfect (and I’m not sure I ever want to be), but I’m moving in the right direction!

How did I learn all this from Ellie?

I smiled when I looked down to put on my slippers the other day. I found Ellie’s bone tucked inside the left one, the one she had chewed on months ago. Ellie had left me a gift! Such a sweet, loving act. THIS defines her!

slipper

 

 

 

Layer Cake Wisdom

Not sure if it’s that food has been inspiring me to think more deeply about life (read what I learned from a veggie wrap in a previous post here: https://beallthere.net/2015/10/17/a-lesson-in-perspective-from-a-veggie-wrap/) or if it’s the fact that I’m more open to learning these days. Either way, as Alanis Morissette belts out, “You live, you learn.”

This time the lesson began with a picture of a festive layer cake I saw on line. It was stunningly beautiful and I knew the moment I saw it that I wanted to make it and bring it to my sister’s house for Christmas. It was at least a foot tall and consisted of multiple layers (more than two) of snowy white cake and icing with flecks of red and green inside the cake (creating a tie-dye effect), and a dusting of the same red and green bursts of color between the layers, on the sides and on top of it.  It would be a show stopper!

The ingredients were pretty basic and I knew I could easily alter the recipe to make the cake vegan. The most challenging thing to find was the container of red and green “jimmies,” as I call them, or “sprinkles,” as you may know them.

After searching the entire supermarket in town for this pivotal ingredient with my daughter, we spotted the lone container of red and green jimmies in the last aisle on top of the ice cream freezer. Desperate to get the goods, we both lunged for the container as if there were others competing for it, and then laughed to each other about our silliness, since we were the only ones in that competition. We were satisfied with our “win” just the same and knew that no one could have rivaled our split second timing in making the jimmies our own and putting them in our shopping cart!

cake

My mind wandered while we were waiting for the movie to start and I was relieved that I remembered to bake the layers for my holiday masterpiece earlier so I could ice it the next day when it was completely cooled.  I felt happy that I was with my family of four as we continued a relatively new Christmas Eve tradition of going to the movies and out to dinner. My relief quickly changed to regret as I realized that I had forgotten to add the red and green jimmies to the batter! Just as quickly, I was back in my happy place again, seeing the humor in the whole cake thing. It was only a cake and it would still look and taste great.

The next day (Christmas), right before we left for my sister’s, I was ready to assemble “The Masterpiece.” After I put some icing between the two layers, I iced the sides and then the top of the cake. Just as I was about done, my daughter walked into the kitchen and asked why I hadn’t added the second layer of cake before I completely iced it. I informed her that I HAD added the second layer and we both laughed at how flat the cake was, in comparison to our muse.* I hadn’t considered that the vegan recipe might limit the cake’s height and it looked lost on its large palette. When we covered it in red and green jimmies, it looked festive, and I was certain it would taste great.

cake3

We had a wonderful time at my sister’s and the cake looked and tasted fine. Even though it was drastically different from what my daughter and I had imagined, it was so much more. When my daughter thought back to the new Christmas memories we made this year she commented that lunging for those jimmies together in the supermarket with me would be one of her fondest.

As I continue to feel somewhat restless about and unsure of my future, my passion and my place in life, I am reminded that,

Life is a journey, not a destination

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be brave, be kind, take risks, stay curious, embrace change, keep striving to make what’s in your heart and what’s in your head a reality, have self-compassion when you fall short of your goals, and know when to ask for help.

Happy New Year!

 

Peace, Love and Presence,

Jeanne

 

*If you want a good laugh, just search google images for “green tie dye cake” and you will see what my inspiration was for my holiday cake, and how much I fell short (but not really).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being Present Can Change Your Life

gifts-of-presence-3

When I first started focusing on being all there, it helped me dwell less on the past and worry less about the future. As I’ve written about in previous posts, I have incorporated many new things into my daily life that have made me less anxious and depressed and more present (and happy).

Minimalism, meditation, yoga, veganism, hiking, and writing are more than just habits in my life, they have become part of who I am and have changed my life!

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I’ve noticed that my weekends and time off don’t seem like such a blur and actually feel like quality time off.

Being present can change your life in many ways:

  1. Feel less anxious and depressed-By not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
  2. Slow down time by being fully present in each moment-And don’t we all want to slow things down a bit?
  3. Get to  know (and love) yourself more-Being present forces us to take a closer look at who we are and put some time and effort into areas that may need love and attention. This is not always comfortable or easy, but remember, no mud, no lotus!
  4. Develop deeper relationships-By spending more quality time with loved ones.
  5. Let go of comparison-Being present helps us focus on what works for us.
  6. Worry less about what others might think and don’t take things personally-Follow Brene’ Brown’s advice and keep a short list of names in your wallet of whose opinions really matter. Ask people to clarify what they mean rather than add your own commentary.  Most times people act in certain ways based on what’s going on with them rather than in response to us.
  7. Ask for what you need (in a kind, loving, “I” statement way)-Being fully present can really highlight what we need in any given moment and we want to acknowledge these authentic moments rather than ignore them. People have no idea what we are thinking or feeling unless we tell them! I have had to build up the courage to do this, but, I promise that with practice, asking for what you need gets easier.

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This time of year mindfulness has helped me no longer grieve the passage of summer and fear the thought that winter is around the corner (perhaps I grieve and fear a little, but certainly not as much). I’m enjoying fall for what it truly has to offer, beautiful weather, warm fires, gorgeous colors and delicious fruits and veggies from our local farms!

Peace, Love and Presence,

Jeanne

 

 

We Are Who We Are, Aren’t We?

we are who we are

For as long as I can remember I have experienced a range of feelings that made me feel  like I was missing out on life. Social anxiety, self-doubt and criticism, anger, fatigue, fear of failure and, at times, self-imposed social withdrawal. I had so much to be grateful for, but I never seemed content for very long.  I felt that this was my lot in life.

After all, we are who we are, right?

I think that so many of us feel that it’s impossible to make big changes and we just hunker down and “armor up,” as Brene´ Brown would say. Rather than focus inward, which is too painful and overwhelming, and wade through the heavy fog of emotions that never really seem to lift, we distract ourselves with drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, social media, work, over scheduling, and by accumulating, organizing and maintaining more and more stuff!

There are some bright spots along the way, but the years pass and we never seem to be able to lift ourselves completely out of the fog.

After all, we are who we are.

Well, I disagree!

Change is possible! But in most cases, things just don’t get better. We have to make an effort to work through what we’re not satisfied with in our lives.  We have to get to the point of being so sick and tired of hearing ourselves complain about the same things over and over again in order to take action.  Or, as was the case with me, we get a major wake up call. A big life change (or many smaller ones) or trauma can cause a shift in our thinking, feeling, what we choose to let into our lives and what we choose to eliminate.

we are who we are.1

I’ve been on this journey for two years now and I have discovered so many things that have helped me be who I WANT to be. There are books, blogs, and e-courses that have inspired me whose authors range from everyday people, like Courtney Carver and Joshua Becker, to research psychologists like Brene´ Brown and Kristin Neff  (ALL superheroes in my opinion!). I’ve shared some of my favorite reads below.

Other things that have helped me greatly and which have become part of who I am are yoga, meditation, writing, nature and outdoor activities (especially hiking), minimalism and nutrition. These things help me focus on being present and positive and make me feel so alive! I am extremely lucky to have a supportive group of family and friends who love me unconditionally and who I can rely on for encouragement. I am so grateful for them!

It’s been a slow, DELIBERATE process of trial and error. It literally started with going outside on a daily basis and gardening- planting, repotting or even just weeding. I’ve tried many different activities and if I enjoyed them, they felt good and they fit into my lifestyle, they became part of my routine. If not, I moved onto something else. I’ve read things that have been extremely helpful and even life changing, and other things that have not really worked for me.

I realized that things weren’t going to change unless I put down the armor and started to move forward and pull MYSELF up out of the fog.

I want to encourage you not to give up! If you are not happy or satisfied and you feel it in your bones that there has to be a better way, then take action! Big changes can come from small steps you take on a consistent basis.

Try something different today. Take a walk, read a helpful book or blog, meditate for a few minutes, stretch, do yoga, go for a hike or run, paint, write or draw, eat better, or just sit in the garden and put your hands in the dirt. Start small. Baby steps. Slow and steady. If it doesn’t feel helpful, try something different. If it resonates with you and makes you feel good, keep doing it, until it becomes part of your daily or weekly routine. Once it becomes habit, experiment with something else.

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You might even try something called, “habit stacking.” Courtney Carver explains this as the pairing of two new habits each for brief periods of time, like a few minutes. Over time, you can extend the amount of time spent on each of these. I started with a short meditation (3-6 minutes) followed by a journal entry where I wrote 2 brief statements: a gratitude statement and an intention for the day.

Before you know it, you’ll have several things in your self-care arsenal! You can pick and choose which will be helpful to you on any given day rather than fall back on old habits that were more numbing than healing.

Reach out to positive, encouraging people who will support you. Embrace change!

I used to think that there was some secret to peace and happiness, but what I’ve discovered is that these things are well within our reach. We just have to make an effort to move in a different direction. Just like the lotus, we may have to go through some mud before we can rise above it.

My journey, with its twists and turns, achievements and setbacks is what life is all about and I’m glad to finally be in the game!

Here are some inspiring reads that have helped me along the way:

The Gifts of Imperfection-Brene´  Brown

Daring Greatly –Brene´  Brown

Rising Strong-Brene´  Brown

The Four Agreements-Don Miguel Ruiz

The More of Less-Joshua Becker

Buddhist Boot Camp-Timber Hawkeye

Faithfully Religionless-Timber Hawkeye

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself– Kristin Neff

http://bemorewithless.com/

http://www.rowdykittens.com/

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/

http://www.timberhawkeye.com/

One-Hundred Kisses

I miss him already.

He was a part of my every day. His big, brown, soulful eyes watched my every move. The smell and feel of his fuzzy hair comforted me like the stuffed toy I never had.

He had hypo-allergenic hair so he was the perfect dog for our family. My son had severe allergies as a child. I think having a dog made my son feel more “normal” amidst all of the doctor appointments, medications, breathing treatments, allergy shots and avoidance of many things that he might react to which could potentially lead to another hospital stay.

I loved the fact that I could pet Louie in any direction and his hair still felt soft and smooth. I would breathe him in as I held him in my arms and kissed him-every day.

I must have picked him up at least 10 times a day and smothered him with just as many kisses each time.

Having shifted my focus to being as present as possible has enabled me to spend good, quality time with loved ones and to feel pretty happy. Being present in my grief has been much more challenging.

I would have never been able to publicly express my grief for my dog if it hadn’t been for something a dear friend said to me several months ago. She had lost a loved one way too young after a long illness and could sense that I was slightly uncomfortable about having such a difficult time after losing my dad. After all, he lived a happy, healthy 88 years!

Grief is grief.

What a wonderfully gracious gift she had given me when she said these three words. And so I talk about my grief, write about it, and yes, even though it really hurts, I feel it. To my surprise, I haven’t felt comparison, resentment or judgment from others. I’ve felt tremendous support and love!

Louie had a great life. We got him when he was just 8 weeks old and showered him with constant love and attention. He just had his 18th birthday! I am so grateful for his unconditional love, support and companionship through some difficult times.

Louie in Wyoming

Louie in Wyoming on our cross county trip

 

I love you Louie Boy! I got it from here.

 

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

                                                                                        -Mumford & Sons

Unexpected Joy

By 2:30 p.m., five hours into the garage sale,  I sold one item, a Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack CD for $1.00.

garage sale

My reservations about having a garage sale were now justified. It was a colossal waste of time and energy! The attention it took to store, clean, organize, price, set up and finally box up and cart away items for a garage sale just wasn’t worth it. Not to mention the Sunday afternoon spent waiting for customers that would never arrive.

I had heard the same warning over and over from other people who were minimizing their belongings and getting rid of unwanted items. “If you don’t need the money, just donate your things straight away, a garage sale just isn’t worth it.”

Although I didn’t need the money, for some reason I just couldn’t heed this advice. Perhaps it’s my stubborn streak or maybe it was because I felt that all the time, effort and money spent accumulating this stuff over the years just had to be worth something.

The garage sale was a bust and the glassware, knick- knacks, albums, DVD’s, frames, etc. would have to be boxed up and brought to a donation center. By now I was completely detached from my old things and I even began to despise them. THEY WERE TAKING UP TOO MUCH OF MY TIME.

The very reason I began to minimize is so that I could spend more time doing what I wanted. Sitting out in the hot sun for six hours with no ocean or lake in sight certainly wasn’t what I had in mind. I was so over the garage sale and all the things I was trying to sell. I just wanted to get rid of them. They no longer brought me joy.

As my thoughts began to shift to boxing everything up, I wondered if giving everything away right here in my driveway would change anything. I honestly doubted it, since the items were so cheap to begin with, but I figured I had nothing to lose. The more I was able to get rid of, the less I would have to lug to the donation center.

My daughter and I taped up a new sign which read, “All items FREE.”

Things began to change immediately. Not only did the new sign attract enough customers in the next hour and a half to take away about fifty percent of my stuff, but the entire mood shifted. At first people were skeptical and wondered what the “catch” was. Once we reassured them that there was no catch, their disbelief lifted. They became excited, and happy and were so appreciative to get something for free. Families spent time talking with us and carefully picking out items that they wanted.

In turn, their happiness made me happy. I would have never thought that what started as a pretty regrettable process (other than the time spent with my husband and my daughter)would end on such a positive note! As we packed up for the day, I smiled to myself realizing the lesson learned.

Always be open to new experiences, especially when things don’t go as planned or as expected. Sometimes they work out better than one could ever imagine.

I laughed as I thought, “My old stuff brought me joy one last time!”