For the third time since I was coerced into “joining” Facebook, I’m quitting. Probably not forever, but, for now. Because “now” is all we really have, I’ve decide to deepen the spiritual path that I’m on.
Of course, being in this haphazard quarantine has given us all time to reflect on what we truly need in order to live a meaningful life. What I need is MORE time alone, MORE time outside with the birds and the flowers and the trees, MORE fresh air and more time to reflect.
Facebook has its benefits, like staying connected with friends and family who are far away, or in their own versions of quarantine. It’s the politics that disturb me. It’s the reposting of hatred and disgust with others that gets into my heart and belly and pollutes my thoughts. Am I one of those empaths who has no filters? Or are my filters just clogged up with all the pain and suffering that flow like murky rivers through my consciousness? I don’t know. What I do know is it’s time for change, BIG change. Internal and external. Facebook is a muddled mess of distraction.
Call me weak, or self centered, or just head-in-the-sand-lazy. But you would misunderstand the purpose here. I want more discipline, more introspection, more growth. I guess I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to isolate. I do not take it for granted. I just want to make the most of this unique time in my life.
Because I am primarily a writer, this will be my outlet, for now.
I have been keeping a list of things that have changed since we’ve been staying home, avoiding exposure to the Coronavirus. I have divided my list into two categories: less and more.
Less: driving, spending, interacting, dirty clothes, using less toilet paper because we have to conserve what’s in the cabinet; less going and getting, less eating out, less frustration with rude people on the freeway, and less delight at watching other people’s children…
More: cooking and eating at home, waking up with the birds, quiet time in the back yard, creative bursts, more mindfulness in daily activities, more pictures of the natural world, more deep conversations with loved ones, more connection to others…remotely, more planning for a new, simpler normal life, and more sitting (unfortunately for my back and my active mind)…
Those are some of the everyday changes I’ve noticed in the last six weeks. Seems like such a long time, but it is just a blip in the larger scheme of things.
Then there is the fact that every single day things change: the number of coronavirus cases and deaths, who’s to blame for the virus in the first place, the plan (or lack, thereof) for finding a cure, the lates insane advice coming from the vast, vacant ether, stimulating how to stimulate the economy while helping the unemployed, how and where to get more testing and equipment, and developing a vaccine for this “invisible enemy,” not to mention the current president’s inability to think logically so that he says one thing and does the opposite, or the way the 24 hour news channels determine what the “BREAKING NEWS” will be for the day and then hammer away at it until the next big event. Every day the changes are momentous. Earth shattering. Almost too much to bear.
It feels like a whirlwind of chaos and confusion on top of a life-threatening situation that could leave half the population dead when all is said and done. And maybe that is not a bad thing.
There. I’ve said it. It is impossible to pay attention and not notice that this virus is most definitely connected to the overpopulation of certain parts of the planet and the over-production/over-consumption by the humans who inhabit certain parts of the planet. We have reached our maximum capacity for all that going and getting and living as if there is no such thing as too much and no such thing as tomorrow. The earth (and God?) have other plans.
In nature every day does change and that is what keeps life flowing and moving rather than becoming stagnant and life-less. As many wise folks have said, “The only thing constant is change.” Well, here we are. Big Change is staring us in the face.
So, those everyday changes I mentioned earlier will inevitably become the “new normal.” Either that or we will all die with our toilet paper and other “necessities” stuffed under our mattresses.
End of rant. I need some yoga now.
Every day I ask myself, “Why haven’t I been writing?” I’ve been home mostly. With this quarantine and the ever-present fear of “being infected,” I should have time to write. I know I have ideas and inspirations. In fact, it feels like I am inspired fairly constantly these days. So, why haven’t I been writing?
Well, I’ve been busy. Staying home for me does not mean sitting on the couch watching tv all day. For me, staying home means doing all those things I put on my New Year’s Intention list: read, write, practice more yoga, work in the yard, clean out closets, continue to downsize, organize, make more artsy stuff, cook more healthy food, etc. I have been doing all that, except the writing.
Maybe it’s because the actual process of writing requires me to sit still for good lengths of time. I like to move. I need to move. I begin to perish when I sit for more than an hour. So, I continue to do this, do that, do a little more until my body simply stops. Then I sit. And think of all the things I want to write about.
Guess I better keep my laptop handy for those brief moments of sitting, just in case….
Being socially distant comes easier for some than others. I like being alone, mostly. I enjoy silence. I find crowds to be overwhelming, mostly. I figure, if this five day old baby can sleep peacefully in the middle of a field surrounded by humans with cell phones and cameras, then surely I can find that place in me that is calm and unaffected by all the chaos in this world.
Simplifying our thoughts is also a process.
So, now I am staring into that vast open field toward the horizon, only waving grass and blue sky in front of me. It’s amazingly peaceful, yet also frightening to not know what is coming next. Writing, yes. Yoga, of course. Gardening, till it gets too cold. Traveling, yes, even when it gets too cold. We can always head south….
This reminds me vaguely of the time we decided eight years ago to close our mental health business, sell what we could and get into that RV to explore some wide open spaces. What a journey that was! It brought us here, to this seeped-in-history, magical town filled with old people and oblivious college students. It’s been a good place to live and I am not done with it yet. There is still more to see and learn here. I am at a junction, sort of like the heart chakra, between the lower and upper chakras. A place to stop and process before moving on.
A coworker made an unexpectedly profound statement when I told him I was leaving. “You know, there is a great big world out there.” I knew that, of course, but this statement came from a guy who never really understood me, or so I thought. Guidance and inspiration come from surprising places sometimes. Am I ready to start walking into that field?
Simplicity. In the seven years since I started this blog, I have concluded that:
1. Simplicity is not a place. It is a mindset.
2. Simplicity appears, then disappears.
3. It is worth finding again and again.
I’ve been missing this theme. We are no longer “on the road,” and because we are settled and grounded in a “real” house, with a “real” yard with “real” responsibilities, simplicity has eluded me. Five years ago, I went to work, started making money, felt my ego grow, and allowed myself to become attached. While that was happening, the clutter grew, both in the physical world and in my head. One day I realized I had abandoned “the road to simplicity.”
After traveling around this country, living the free and easy vagabond life, I needed some grounding. It started off fine. Go to work, teach yoga and creativity, listen to life’s many complications and tragedies, empathize and process. Come home, work in the yard, cook food, eat and sleep. It started out simple. Then the road made a hard left turn and I lost my way.
I enjoy my work, mostly. I have been told that I bring unique skills to my job. I am allowed a broad range of possibilities. Yet, there is congestion, and confusion, and conflict. Some days I feel as if I am navigating a boat through an endless field of sticky mud. And the demons hover in the corners with their sarcastic grins, waiting for me to give up.
Last week I did, almost, give up. It felt like the time to walk away, take my toys and go home. I did, quietly, but with the intention of maybe going back. It hurt to imagine life without meaningful work. It was frightening to see an open field of tall grass in front of me. No obstacles, no demons, just grass and sky.
I’m still looking into that field, waiting for my courage to catch up with me. It’s time for this new perspective. It’s time again to simplify.
Something happens when a loved one dies. Those who are left either wake up or go deeper to sleep. I woke up, again. I realized that, in honor of my mother’s life as a passionate writer, I need to get serious about my own writing. She always encouraged me, even when she disagreed with what I was writing about. Writing has been my therapy longer than anything else, even yoga or gardening. It has been the solid rock that my “self” is built upon. Sometimes it looks like a messy purge; other times it is an eloquent and other-worldly expression of my feelings. I could go on, of course, but I won’t.
The point is this: From now on, I want to make a difference with “my writing.” It is said that a writer should “write what they know.” What I know for sure, is that life is unpredictable, there is pain and suffering, and there is also unexplainable beauty everywhere. I also know about yoga, meditation, and creativity. I guess I could say I know a little bit about gardening too. These things come naturally to me and are my “side therapies.” So, that is what I will write about now.
This means the “road to simplicity” has served its purpose. It was a six year chronicle of an adventure that brought me to this place of pure focus. I had so many highlights and insights along the way. I would not change a single minute of that journey. And I will do it again, one day. But, recently, I found myself at an intersection–the past, the future, and everything in between, staring me in the face. I looked out and saw the expanse in all directions. I closed my eyes and felt the minute details of my life inside me. I knew it was time to be still and simply write.
At some point, when I figure out how to save the “good stuff” from this blog, I will shut it down. But I am already building another, more educational, perhaps inspirational series of articles that I hope will help someone else dig deeper and find the parts of themselves that are waiting to be expressed. The journey is not over. It is never over. I’m just pausing to integrate, fine tune, look back and forward, expand and contract.
My new blog is called Mind, Body, Spirit Connections. I hope you’ll join me. https://wordpress.com/view/mindbodyspiritconnections.blog
One thing that happened to me and my brothers in the last few months is that we all agree that we don’t want to leave our children with so much stuff. It has been a lot of work. We have given up most of our weekends to manage this job and we all walked away committed to clearing out our own attics and garages. It’s a process. It goes on and on. It’s easier to get stuff than it is to get rid of it. There are layers of memories and emotions attached to things. If we let go too fast, we might find ourselves empty, listening to the echoes we’ve created in our frenzy to avoid the heaviness of materialism.
This is the torture that wakes me up at night. I open my eyes and see my books, mythology and psychology and women’s studies books, that I am struggling to release into the world so someone else might learn from them. I see them several times a day. I let them go a little more each time I see them.
Holding on to my books is my way of remembering what I already know—that I’ve learned a lot and that I have a lot to share. But looking back, it might have been just a temporary distraction for me, going to school, immersing myself in this subject or that. Learning became my therapy. Now, 16 years later, I’m still holding on, maybe wishing I could go back for a while and do it all over again, differently.
But that is the past. I can’t change it. Only learn from it. I know it’s time to let go. Move on. Be who I am with all that history and knowledge and attachment. Let someone else fill up with the stories and fantasies and other people’s pain sitting on my bookshelf. It’s time.
The Day Will Come When None of This Stuff Will Matter Anymore
I know this. I am a logical person, and really don’t care much for “stuff.” I like simplicity and space and freedom. But, in the middle of the night, when my thoughts are not complete or rational, I start to see all the stuff that clogs up the garage and the hallway, and, now, the dining room table. I’m convinced someone will want this stuff, so I put it on Craig’s List and fourteen yard sale sites on Facebook. One or two things have sold thankfully. But now it seems like it is all just sitting there, holding me hostage.
Yard Sales Over. Time to Seriously Let Go.
The weather has wreaked havoc on our good intentions this Fall. Three times storms have invaded the space we put aside to sell things. It’s obvious. Yard sales are only good for wasting time on a Saturday when you want to make enough money to go out to lunch later. I’m done with that. Time for the faster, more karmic way of downsizing. Give it away. Here’s a list:
Ugg Boots, LL Bean Boat Shoes, Mikasa china, God knows how much crystal and fake crystal, lots of Native American collectables, carved wall hangings from Indonesia, brass vase from India, bowls, cups, pans, more books….If I made a complete list it would go on forever.
Most people do this in the Spring. I’m kind of weird that way. I need to clean my house completely before the cold weather sets in. I figure, if I’m gonna be inside for four months, I might as well know that the corners and closets are clean. I guess it’s a Virgo thing. But that has served me well in this process. I like order, symmetry, and structure. You can’t have that with too much stuff cluttering up the edges of your world. No problem…emotionally. It’s the physical stuff that slows me down.
So, here’s the final lesson: Do this while you’re young. Your body can handle all the bending and lifting and breathing in dust. Then don’t buy anything you don’t really need. I guarantee, this will provide you with a carefree life. You will make better decisions, have better relationships, and, heck, you will probably lose weight—figuratively and in reality. Let go now. Your life depends on it!
Facebook has a way of keeping the past alive. Today, in the midst of my personal grief process, it reminded me of a post from five years ago. It was from my mother. Here’s what she said,
“Theresa, Thank you for my
beautiful birthday card. You were the first. Trouble is, birthdays just remind one that they are getting older, lol. 77 is old!”
She was still “herself,” back then as far as I could tell. I was in California and had not seen the dark times that she was entering. She must have been feeling her age, mentally and physically. But she never forgot to say thank you. And she never forgot to send me a card for my birthday. Ever. And I moved around a lot.
If my mother was still here I would say a few things to her. Like this, “Please don’t be afraid of everything…No one is going to hurt you,” Or, “You are a good person. God loves you.” Or, “Thank you for always remembering my birthday. Even though I don’t make a big deal of it, my heart smiles when I see your birthday card in the mailbox. I know you spent time looking at hundreds of cards so you could find just the right one. I know how much you love me, and I love you just as much. I could not ask for a better mother. I love you.”
I could go on.
She would be 82 this year. Is that old? I’m not so sure. What is old? Does it have to hurt so much?
I’m glad she is not hurting any more.
Honestly, I had already been trying to help my mother “go through stuff” for three years. She did well, letting go of things that were obviously of no use or that someone else could put to better use. I knew the final clean up would be somewhat of a nightmare when the time came. It was. On top of funeral arrangements—“My funeral is all planned and paid for,” the realization that it was not paid for, or planned; cutting six huge pine trees that were encroaching on the neighbor’s property, and all the shocked relatives who came from various parts of the state—we methodically went through her things. My brothers and I worked together every other weekend during the summer, giving up our lives in order to bring closure to hers. It was painful, tiring and emotionally draining.
I prefer not to go through that again, but as I said earlier, she collected things, angels, saints, books, cards, kitchen gadgets, and more food than anyone could eat in five years, plus all those file drawers of internet articles on politics and the dark future of this country. I had to stop reading at one point. But I understood more fully why she was so fearful and angry. Her country had changed dramatically. Her church had changed dramatically. Her friends had mostly abandoned her to her misery. All she had left was her family, and, of course, we were all busy with our lives….It’s a lesson we have to learn over and over again.
People disappear if you don’t pay attention. She was gone. Her things remained. My brothers and I attacked her stuff with both tenderness and aggression. We felt she was watching with a slight smile on her face. She knew we knew what was really important.
At first I said I didn’t want anything that was hers. “I’m trying to get rid of stuff myself. I don’t need anything else.” But there were exceptions. We had talked about it many times in the last few years–who gets what, and what belongs to whom. She had an onyx ring and a sliver bracelet that she always told me was mine after she died. She said my grandfather made them for her and thought it appropriate that I be the next one to wear them. When she knew her time was near, and before she stopped speaking, she gave them to me, “so no one else takes it.” At that point, I felt a responsibility to take these things, to take care of these things.
One day she opened up her jewelry boxes, of which there were many, to me and my daughter. With hand gestures and facial expressions, she told us to go through them now. We did. We separated out the costume jewelry from the fine jewelry, claimed a few things for ourselves and put the rest away. Then when the time felt right, we shared it with the cousins and grandchildren. Everyone got something if they wanted it. Some were simply not interested. I still have three of her jewelry boxes with jewelry I will never wear. It’s mostly gold, and for some reason I have never liked gold. A woman came to the yard sale this past weekend and said she would love to see it. “My sister got all my mother’s jewelry.” I thought it was fate that she had come that day. I said yes, then called her back later and said no. I’m not ready to let it go just yet.
No one knows another person until they go through their stuff. And that brings me back to my journey toward simplicity.