Since this apartment has an open floor plan between the living and dining spaces, we will just call this the “couch area.” How’s that?
Category Archives: Enough Fun
I closed on the house today. Imagine carrying two buckets filled with water, one in each hand for five miles. When you reach your destination, you set the buckets down and your weary arms, relieved of their burden, seem to float up of their own accord.
That is how I feel today. Relieved of a burden that I have carried for a long time. Floating. And then a friend dropped by to celebrate with me: the house closing and my recent birthday.
You all may recall that I am helping a friend clean out her 2,300 square foot basement of stuff that has been accumulating for 40+ years. It is a big project and we have been working on it off and on for over a year.
You may also recall that mice got into the stuff stored there, which was a strong motivator for my friend to finally do something about the basement. Well, imagine my delight [heavy sarcasm] when I arrived on Wednesday and she warned me before I headed downstairs, “I should tell you, I found a snakeskin in the basement. He probably was down there hunting mice. He might be gone by now.”
We worked for eight hours over two days and filled up two large trash cans with trash, two large trash cans with recycle materials, a pick-up truck full of supplies to be donated to Habitat for Humanity and my car full of objects to go to Goodwill.
I found several dead mice and a couple nests….but no snake.
As I was finishing up, my friend served me lunch and from her kitchen table we watched a doe and new fawn, nursing. And they were in the backyard. Where nature belongs.
We have a tendency to stop seeing things in our routine environment after awhile. This is evident in my colleague’s office spaces and the homes that I visit during my work day. There are procedure manuals that expired ten years ago and phone books from 1992 in our office. I’ve seen kitchens in themed country blue geese that I know was being marketed in the 1980s. Or roosters from the 1950s. (Surprise-roosters are back!) I prefer a simpler decorating style that gets it’s inspiration from the alcove of the Japanese tea room. Refined. Just a few well chosen objects. Elements of nature. It is not intended to be permanent. There is not a throw pillow in sight. And yet, the possible variations are endless and intriguing.
I had thought that when my kids left home, or I retired, or both, that I would sleep for a month. I imagined that when I emerged, rubbing my eyes, scratching my belly, that I would look around for my new purpose and throw myself in.
First off, it’s not taking a month of solid sleeping to get caught up on my rest. Just consistently going to bed on time and saving evenings for friends and reading.
So after I got rested, I discovered my second false belief:
That my purpose is all about service.
Not to worry, I’m not about to abandon my hospice work or stop paying for college for the kids. But as I work on the house to get it ready to sell, I’m learning that designing and completing these projects (I’ll have photos as I finish them) has a strong “play” quality to it.
I like taking something that is ugly or poorly designed and redoing it. It’s fun.
Last week I made the 8 hour trek north to pick up my daughter from college. After we loaded up her things, rather than heading south for home, we continued north for another four hours to a friend’s cabin which is near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. [The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a 1,090,000 acre within the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota.]
We stayed at the cabin, which has electricity and heat, but no running water and enjoyed the beauty of the area. We hiked.
And we canoed.
And we spent a fair amount of time quiet and letting the healing power of the outdoors do it’s thing.
Here are my take away lessons from the trip, in no particular order:
~There is a point when your children outgrow you. Like Kahil Gilbran says, “Your children are arrows shot into the future.” They move forward to a place that you can not go. This is a good thing.
~For me, silence is the best teacher.
~As healing as the fresh air and walking in a pine forest can be–a warm bed and a warm toilet are things that an aging body rejoices in.
~My dwelling place must be beautiful and organized. When it is not, I get restless until I make it so.
~I like my human contact to be purposeful. If we are just going through the motions or skimming the surface, I would rather retreat into silence, my best teacher.
We humans tend to measure things by what is nearby. If my neighbors have homes bigger than mine….then mine must be small. Even if people in this location lived 5-10 humans to a room the size of my living room 100 years ago, or do so to this day, in another country.
My middle son says in high school his personality was label “Smart.” Even though, as he points out, “smart” is not a personality characteristic. Now, he goes to a college where most everybody is smart, an he says you can really see the flavors of personality that can be manifest in smart humans.
What I see in my own life (and those in my immediate surroundings) are people living lives rich and overflowing in abundance…but still focused on some small lack. I give you a few examples from this week. I would love it if you would add your own in the comments.
~ I am buying mostly raw ingredients, few carbs and eating only when I am hungry. I thought this would reduce my waist size as well as my grocery bill. So far only the grocery bill is affected. Still too much food.
~A co-worker, who paid for a vacation with the money from her recycled cans (Yeah! Recycling!) But still laments that there is not enough money. She drinks about 12 sodas per week. I calculate that 32 cans=1 pound = 0.50 cents. A 12 pack of Diet Coke is about $3.00. I figure she would save $2.50 just in money (not to mention time and health benefits) each week to forgo this habit. That’s $130 per year. I do not know how long she saved to pay for her vacation.
~ I recently met a woman (fairly organized) who kept her clothing in 18 gallon plastic tubs. She had them labeled, stacked, in her bedroom. There were twenty such tubs in her bedroom and about that many in the dining room. Some of the boxes had not been opened in a decade.
~Another person, I have known for decades reports that “small spaces make me claustrophobic.” She lives in a dwelling with 4,800 square feet. She mostly occupies two rooms with a footprint of 300 square feet. She assures me that to move to a smaller space would be difficult and traumatic for her.
~Another person, who requires public assistance for food and medications has 3 cats, 2 dogs and a pig in a cage (a pet–not planning on eating it, which would be more rational.) I wonder, does she need to give back?
~ Another person, spends more than $1,000 per month on eating out at restaurants. This person has many anxieties about money. Hmmmmm.
~Another person, has a home in this state. A home in a different state. A mobile home (RV), a boat, a golf cart, four cars for 2 people….one of which does not drive anymore.
All of the above persons are entitled to their different entertainments, their diversions…..up to the moment that they complain to me that they do not have enough time or money or….for what they want to spend their time on. But with all this abundance, or excess…..how do we find balance?
As if there were not already a dozen excellent reasons to shop at second-hand stores. Here is one more: this delightful book mark fell out of a book I purchased at Goodwill this week.
Once you have had that first big de-clutter session, and experienced the excitement and freedom of being responsible for less stuff, you can get a little tingly just thinking about the next round. When you have been on the path for awhile, you notice that beyond the cycle of too much/release/freedom that entire new vistas open for you. Your freedom allows you to think of things in a new way. I had a conversation with a friend this past week and he was lamenting the experience of having the same fights with his wife, over and over. “We are carrying too much emotional baggage. And we know each other’s triggers.” “You don’t have to carry your emotional baggage. You can set it down and just walk away from it.,” I replied. My friend was intrigued and we discussed ways to disconnect from our emotional hurts and beliefs that do not serve us. If you think a home free of clutter feels good, imagine a heart cleared of fear.
Here’s my resolution for the new year:
Before I complain about anything, I am to remember what I am grateful for. I will use my fingers to count, if I have to.
1) Housing: we have a comfortable, affordable home.
2) Food: we have easy access to inexpensive, healthy food. And expensive, unhealthy food too, if we chose it.
3) Transportation: we have a paid for car, three bikes and the opportunity for free airplane trips. Plus, we can all walk for long distances without difficulty.
4) Health: we are all reasonably healthy. We have access to excellent health care, should we need it and a way to pay for it also.
5) Enrichment: the kids are in school, we have a free public library, the internet for a small fee and the time to pursue most of the interests that we have.
So, if you see me open my mouth, then close it and count on my fingers….you will know what I am doing–counting my blessings.