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

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

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

From My Heart

butterfly

Sometimes I wish there was an emotional heart valve. One that I could control and let in only the good things. It doesn’t work that way. My heart is always open and so I feel everything. And when there are many emotionally charged things going on at once, it can feel overwhelming.

Vulnerability.

That’s what it is. I can weep at the drop of a hat lately. Selling my house, packing and moving into a smaller house in a new area, my work routine changing again soon and the anniversary of my dad’s passing.

I feel so exposed emotionally that sometimes I feel as if my heart is beating outside of my chest. It’s been three years since my dad died suddenly. Although he lived a full life for 88 years, his death was a big shock and the grief that followed was incapacitating.

Vulnerability.

My dad was one of ten children and a World War II Veteran. He was fearless, outspoken and even a little rough around the edges. He was able to impact more people in his life on a daily basis than anyone I know, always working for Veterans’ rights. He was “larger than life” and never took no for an answer.  He had a big heart and an even greater willingness to forgive. I always admired that about him.

Even though we butted heads at times because I challenged him often and wished he was a little more sensitive, I always knew that he loved me.

My dad was tough and strong and I think my soft and sensitive self made him a little uncomfortable. I don’t think I totally accepted who I was until I no longer judged myself through the lens of my father’s eyes.

I began to embrace who I was and the vulnerability that I was feeling and, rather than look away, I looked inward, perhaps for the first time. I began to dwell less on the past and worry less about the future. That’s where I’d been most comfortable and it was always a welcome distraction from what I was feeling in the present. I knew I had to open myself up and learn how to process what I was thinking and feeling in a healthy way, in a way that would make me stronger.

I asked for help when I needed it and began a journey of self discovery to find out what makes me feel happy, healthy and grounded.

Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness.  It requires strength and perseverance to be in that space.

Embracing vulnerability can be terrifying yet life-giving at the same time.

I’m grateful that I’ve had the courage to open myself up to change and the swirl of emotions that come with it.

Thanks dad!

Creating S P A C E for Me

cairn

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