Letting Go

I’m admittedly a bit of a pack rat. I’m not sure where this tendency ever came from, or why it’s still sticking around, but it’s been a part of my life now for forty-two (almost forty-three!) years. Every so often I decide that I’m finally going to do something about this pack-rattish-ness of mine. I go on a bit of an organizing and de-cluttering spree. I get rid of things. I purge. At least for a while. And then for whatever reason, I always run out of steam and not only stop, but return to my previous hoarder-like ways.

For example, last year I read the popular “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo and decided very quickly that this was the The Answer to my problems. I pulled everything out of my closet and dresser and went through each piece, asking, “Does this bring me joy?” And guess what? I got rid of a lot of clothing.

And then, I stopped.

And not long later, I began buying more clothes. Always with the justification that this or that particular item “brought me joy”. What it also brought me an overflowing closet and a return of that “cluttered” feeling.

I’ve realized that when my physical space feels cluttered, then my mental and emotional state tends to match.

I don’t know if it’s inspiration from the start of a new year or what, but once again, I’m feeling the need to de-clutter and rid myself of all those physical things in my life that seem to be weighing me down. Maybe this feeling will pass again but for time being, I am feeling very at peace with the idea of letting go, paring down, focusing on the truly important things in my life. And guess what? My shoe collection isn’t it.

It will take time, and dedication to the cause, but once again I feel that the time is right to let go.

The Power of “No”

Growing up, I somehow managed to learn that the word “no” was a negative word. I’m pretty sure it at least originated with my mother, who also taught me that “being nice” and being liked by others were two extremely important things. Saying “no” means that people might somehow perceive you as being “not nice” and less likable, right? So no isn’t something that should be said that often.

Well, you can guess how that worked out for me. I ended up being an adult with poor boundaries, who often said “yes” first, ended up regretting it, and then somehow lying to get out of whatever I’d agreed to. And when you’re a person with crappy boundaries to begin with, sometimes even when you do say no, that no gets trampled, and you get bulldozed by a disrespectful person with their own agenda.

I’m 40 years old and I reluctantly admit that I still have difficulty saying no, particularly when it comes to certain people. I still have a desire to be seen as easy-going and accommodating. I still want to be liked and seen as a good person, even though a positive opinion of someone else doesn’t actually mean that you ARE a good person. Perception really has little to do with reality.

Yesterday I found myself presented with an opportunity. I was in a situation where I really wanted to say no to something/someone, but there was that little voice in the back of my head warning me that I “should be nice” and say yes, even though I really, really didn’t want to. And to be 100% honest, the individual making the request didn’t deserve to have me be nice to them “just because”. This individual is wholly undeserving of my “niceness”, despite what I sometimes tell myself. Because also? “Being nice” to said person doesn’t guarantee that they’re going to return that niceness. In fact, the person in question often looks as my acts of kindness as opportunities to take advantage, or at least has in the past.

No more.

Yesterday, I took a deep breath and told this person “no”. Flat out. Maybe it will affect their opinion of me, and maybe it won’t. The thing I need to remember is that my self-worth isn’t based on their thoughts of me. I need to remind myself of this fact much more often.

And you know what? Saying “no” when that’s what you really want to say is pretty damned empowering. WAY more than being a dancing monkey to try and get others to like you, that’s for sure.

I’m already looking forward to saying no more often.

Evolution

While working on de-cluttering over the weekend, I happened to come upon some old video footage of when my girls were little. Around one and three, I would guess. I popped it on and watched for a bit, a strange mix of emotions washing over me.

I didn’t appear in many of the videos (since I was behind the camera most of the time), so it provided me with an interesting glimpse into a typical “day in the life of Sunshine” when my girls were tiny. Looking back, those days seem like both a million years ago, and just last week — both at the same time. I can so clearly remember them at these ages — my two sweet little girls — and yet, so much has happened since then.

Most significantly, I was struck by how I am not the same person that I was back then. So much has happened to me in that time…a major depression and near nervous breakdown, the dissolution of my first marriage, the loss of a community of friends, meeting CBG, sustaining a long distance relationship for nearly four years, finally ending up together in the same city, getting married…if you had told the woman who shot that video footage what was in store for her, she never in a million years would have believed it.

It’s been an evolution. As my circumstances have changed, *I* have changed. I have adapted. I have thrived. Those things that haven’t served me have been cast aside (people, shitty self-perceptions, lies that I clung to for far too long), and I have come out on the other side of everything a stronger, happier, more independent and all-around better person. When those videos were made I had no idea where life was going to take me. And while a great deal of it was a hellish journey, as I look around at the life I have built and the person that I have become, I know that I wouldn’t change one bit of it.

Survival of the fittest at its finest.

Old Ghosts

So CBG and I have embarked upon cleaning up our financial act. This is an exciting prospect for me, and I’m actually really looking forward to the whole process (as surprising as that might seem). As part of this whole “being responsible grown ups” directional move that we’re making, I’m also hell-bent on de-cluttering and getting rid of unwanted “stuff”. I sort of feel like less clutter goes hand-in-hand with living a more frugal lifestyle, since after all, “things” cost money, don’t they? Add to this the fact that our small house has been feeling even smaller lately, as the “stuff” piles up.

The worst is our basement storage area, known in our family as “The Pit of Despair”.

pit

It’s a relatively small storage area, but it’s basically plugged with “stuff”. Now, some of it is legit — holiday decorations, out of season clothing, things like that. However, a great portion of it is not — including a number of boxes from when I moved into this house and just never dealt with.

(And for those of you keeping score, you’ll likely remember that it’s been over TWO YEARS since CBG and I moved into this new place together).

Yesterday I retreated to The Pit to spend some time down there, dealing with “stuff”. I vowed that I would deal with at least one box. When all was said and done, I’d effectively dealt with five of them. I ended up with some garbage, some things to donate, and actually very little that I wanted to continue storing. It’s amazing the things that I’ve continued to hang onto over the years that serve no useful purpose.

Among the things I pulled out were three old journals. Journals that I’d kept both during my marriage and during my early relationship with CBG. I began flipping through them, casually, stopping to read the occasional page or two here and there. And that’s when I realized something important: I am no longer the woman who wrote these words, all those years ago. That part of my life is behind me now, and by keeping those journals around, I was merely keeping unwanted reminders of those days. I realized that some day, when I’m no longer on this earth, I wouldn’t want anyone reading through what I’d written — much of it very private thoughts and feelings. I would never want those words to be someone’s impression of who I am.

So I brought those journals up out of the pit, and without going down the rabbit hole (i.e. reading through them all), I destroyed them. I have no need to keep reminders of those parts of my life with me. I’m not that person anymore, and the last thing I need are those old ghosts haunting me.

I feel lighter already.

100 Happy Days (Of a Different Kind)

images

A few months back I made the decision to go on a running streak. I decided that I would run at least 2 km every single day. At the time I made the decision, I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to keep up the streak, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought that maybe 30-ish days or so would be good.

When I hit the 30 day mark, I somehow didn’t feel “finished”. So I continued the streak, thinking that perhaps 40 would be good. Particularly symbolic since I turned 40 on my birthday this year.

Still, when 40 hit, it didn’t seem like enough. So I kept going, without any real end point in sight. All I knew was that it had to be an even number (because my obsessive-compulsive side wouldn’t allow me to stop on day 57 or 61 or some such nonsense.

Yesterday I hit Day 100.

100 solid days of running. During that time I ran anywhere from two to thirty kilometres. Most days I did something in the 5-10 km mark. I have a few random thoughts about my 100 day running streak.

– Damn 100 days goes by quickly. TOO quickly. Dear Life: you can slow down anytime, mmkay?

– I’m a pretty healthy person! Not once in 100 days was I sick and couldn’t run.

– I really do love running. Yes, yes, I knew this before, before the past 100 days really reminded me of that. I.love.it. Love. Truly.

– I never regret seeing a sunrise. I’ve seen a lot of them over the past 100 days. Each one is different and beautiful in its own way. I’ve come into my morning-person-ness

– My body is happiest when I am running regularly. I deal with a lot of aches and pains. Part of it is getting older, yes, but I have a lot of neck/upper back problems thanks to a car accident in my 20s. Even though I’ve been pushing my body these past 100 days, it feels better than it has in a long time. I’m more relaxed, I’m stronger. My muscles are singing from all the blood pumping through them daily.

– It feels good to challenge myself. There were some days that it was damn tough to drag myself out for an early morning run. But whenever I thought about just staying snuggled under the blankets, I reminded myself that I didn’t want to break this running streak because of laziness. No, when I decide that the streak has ended, I want it to be a purposeful decision.

– In the past, I allowed laziness to hold me back too often. Running is very much a mental game as much as it is a physical one, and more often than not, in the past, I allowed my brain to get in the way of me getting out for a run. Once staying home was no longer an option, I didn’t have that mental block there to stand in my way.

– The most rewarding runs are often on the days when it was toughest to get out the door. Nothing like that sense of accomplishment after pushing through those feelings of “BUT I DON’T WANNA!!!”

– On the tough days, the toughest part is usually just getting out the door. I would bargain with myself that all I needed to do was 2 km in order to fulfill my goal. There were actually very few days (less than 5) when I only did the 2 km…most of the time, once I got out there and my blood started pumping, I wanted to go further, and so I did.

– Not having the time is a shitty excuse for not exercising. Many mornings this summer I was up at 4:45-5:00. A little bit later on the weekends and during vacation week, but because I had made running a priority, I never had the “but I don’t have time” excuse for not getting out there. Especially since my minimum was 2 km…less than 15 minutes! Who doesn’t have time for at least a 15 minute workout?

So yeah. It’s been an interesting 100 days. I’m not sure where all of this is going, but I will mention this: This morning, Day 101 I got up and ran 10 km.

Staying home this morning hadn’t even crossed my mind.

The Day of Sunshine

Saturday presented itself with a rare gift to me: A day all alone. CBG was away visiting Ankle Biter, as he does every other weekend, and the girls’ dad asked for a weekend time swap so he could take them to a birthday party. This gave me 24 hours all to myself. I can’t remember how long it’s been since I had that kind of time to do with whatever I wanted. I was positively giddy at just the thought of it.

It used to be that in the past, I would have difficulty with a chunk of time like this. I would struggle figuring out what to do with it; I would feel too much pressure to make the day “perfect” and would more than likely end up hiding at home feeling lonely and sorry for myself, missing my girls AND my man.

Not this day. It was a gorgeous sunny day, promising to be the nicest weather day we’ve had to so far this spring. This spring in our area has basically been the pits. So sunshine and warmth? No WAY I was going to stay holed up at home and miss out.

I crammed more into one single 24 hour period than I’d planned, without being frantic and trying to “do it all”. Two things I did were things I’d never done before: Eating lunch alone at a cafe, and going to a movie alone. I enjoyed both of these things a lot more than I thought I would, actually. They didn’t feel at all lonely, which was always my worry and my main reason for not doing it before.

The day also included a nice walk in the sunshine, some shopping, and a solo coffee date. Sushi for dinner curled up on my couch with a movie, an early bedtime and an early Sunday morning run before the girls returned back home.

It was like a mini solo vacation and it was exactly what I needed to refresh my spirit. It’s been a tough few weeks: stress at work, issues with CBG, and some health concerns. I needed a break…and that was exactly what the day provided for me. I was able to let go of all the things that were weighing on me and just spend some quality time with myself. And I realized something important: I need this more often. Time to spend with just myself and my thoughts, enjoying my own company. Because the more I do it, the more I realize that I kind of like the gal I see in the mirror every day.

I’ve come a long way, baby.

 

Becoming Quiet

Quiet

There’s too much noise in my world. In all our worlds, really. There is so much noise, so many distractions. Between my phone, my iPod, my computer, the TV and the people around me, I’m really hardly ever truly alone anymore.

I know that this is a problem. My mind is full, and I invite in even more clutter and distraction to keep myself away from the things that I might not want to examine. I zone out…starting at Twitter and Facebook on my phone when I have a few minutes so I don’t have to think about my negative mood and what might be behind it.

Because thinking about all of these things means that I have to do something about it, doesn’t it?

Lately I have been making a real effort to be more quiet. I walk to work most days and instead of plugging in my headphones, I have made the choice to not listen to music. I observe everything around me — the sights, the sounds, the smells. I allow myself whatever thoughts happen to come up — even the uncomfortable ones.

One day this week I even chose to go for a run without my iPod. This is a Big Deal for me. I never run without music. It was short, it was quick, but it wasn’t nearly as horrible as I thought it would be. Even with music, running is my thinking time. I may have that added stimulus of music to get my blood pumping, but it’s the time when I sort through all of the noise and the distractions in my brain. Maybe it’s all the running I’ve been doing lately that’s been motivating me to seek even more quiet time, time to listen to my brain and talk to my heart a bit more.

I find myself craving a weekend getaway. Cabin in the woods, completely unplugged from the outside world. Books, a journal, my yoga mat, my running shoes and me. Sadly, it’s not in the cards right now, so I’ll just have to take my small moments of quiet when I can steal them.

It’s good to be quiet sometimes. That’s when that Little Voice inside is heard most clearly. I don’t know if it’s that it has something special to tell me right now, or if I just miss its quiet wisdom. Hopefully I will find out soon.