Process not Perfection

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Is done really better than perfect? Maybe in marketing or bed-making, but perfect sounds like a good idea when engaging in say, heart surgery or packing a parachute. Habits, though? Where do they fit in? I’m siding with done. To any degree.

I’m two weeks into my made up Three for Three system. I’m counting the “dones” because there is no perfect here. This is life. It’s more about mastery than perfection. And it’s all 100% subjective.

There is a quote from Swami Kripalu that I have always marveled at and I’m on a constant quest to embed it into every judgmental cell of my being: “Self-observation without judgment is the highest form of spiritual practice.” And how.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Eliminating things is way easier than adding in new practices. At least the things I chose to let go of. It took absolutely no effort to deny alcohol. I mean aside from thinking somewhere on the periphery while preparing dinner that first night how lovely a glass of wine would be while chopping veggies, there has really been no thought of wine or alcohol of any kind.

While I was making my list of positive changes I wanted to adopt this year, there were other food items that I wanted to eliminate or greatly reduce: meat, dairy, gluten and sugar. I secretly bundled two of those into the curriculum of month one of “Project Me” and, like their buddy alcohol, they have not been missed. No meat or gluten for 14 days. Check.

BUT, if I do have meat and/or gluten, I have already given myself permission to let it go and not be judgmental. Alcohol is the focus. That was the one thing I promised myself.

I also want to clarify the reason I am doing this. To myself as much as anyone. I have identified those 5 foods as working against me. Or perhaps it is my affinity for them that becomes detrimental. Alcohol invites me to stay up too late and cozy up to lethargy. Meat has become more of a compassion issue over the years, but I also know too much of it too often promotes prolonged couch sitting. Gluten is glue to my digestive system. Nuff said. Dairy is inflammatory to everyone and I am everyone. Sugar is my best friend. I love sugar. I have let her go before and plan to move to another state to avoid her enticements if I have to to say bye-bye again. But not yet.

I always have these five frenemies in the back of my mind. I am hyper aware of each teaspoon of sugar that goes into my coffee and of how much butter I am using on my gluten-free toast. I have let go of cheese for the most part and don’t miss it. But just knowing this is the direction in which I’d like to go, keeps me from overindulging and seems to be working in my favor.

Plus, I have made no promises to let go of any of these things forever. Or maybe I will. But there is no pressure to label myself anything or any pride involved in being something-free. In fact, I would like to be the type of person that becomes so attuned to the needs of their own body that they eat and nourish it with exactly what and how much it requires.

Can you imagine? Not succumbing to peer pressure, advertising or non-supportive habits? Sounds kinda magical.

The side effect of eliminating all of these things, slowly and mindfully, is to create space and clarity. Clean energy to be used for higher pursuits. Give myself and my body the best opportunity to digest and thrive, thereby clearing my mind and sparking the moldering embers of creativity. To give myself every opportunity to be shiny.

Weight loss could also be a side benefit, but it’s not the driver. I haven’t weighed myself at all. I know I need to lighten up, lose weight and reduce inflammation and I believe that will happen naturally. I want to be my ideal size, but I’ve actually grown quite fond of my curves and thickness over the years. I like being huggable and grounded. But, if the universe decides my best body mass is 120 pounds I’m down with that too. I’ll adjust.

Now, for the moment of truth: The adding in of helpful habits. (Big sign, eye roll.)

The morning practice and daily writing? More difficult. For me it’s about structure and time. If I get up early enough these things will flow with much less effort. (That’s my belief.) The holidays and company have given me many convenient excuses not to do this. But honestly, even when I get up at 5:00 AM I manage to somehow fill the time with other things.

But I’m not giving up. Quitting would not serve me. These two practices are still tugging at me.

Let’s start with the morning practice. In my mind it was to be about an hour and include meditation, breath work and yoga. In reality, on my best days, it turned into 15 minutes of all of that. However, I am reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear and one of the methods to skillfully adopt a habit is to commit 2 minutes to it daily. In the case of my little routine that would look like sitting on my mat for 2 minutes. Maybe eyes closed and breathing. Maybe looking around my backyard. The habit is rolling out my mat and sitting down however I spend that time is irrelevant. In theory this mat sitting will evolve into the hour I had envisioned. Maybe two minutes at a time. Better than avoidance.

The writing has had a higher success rate. I have wondered more than once why I chose writing. I love to write. I hate to write. I love to think about writing and to have written, but the process sometimes feels arduous and the words won’t flow and who wants to read this drivel anyway when I’m bored with my own sentences. But bad writing is still writing. Good and better writing comes with consistency. And lots pages of bad writing. I have been able to meet my goal of 1000 words per day about 65% of the time.

As I consider my choices, and that voice of lethargy disguised as common sense that tries to talk me into other distractions, I am also fortifying my decisions by reading about habits, by reading about food, by writing about what I’m reading about. I believe that is called studying. And I do not have a specific goal in mind for any of it. No weight loss or book deal, no financial gain or gold stars.

The process is the struggle and the reward. To let it go is to fail. To skip days, fight against it and whine, but still do something, anything? That’s progress. Process not perfection.

 

Lazy Win

I failed the first day.

  • No alcohol. Check.
  • Write 1,000 words. Check.
  • Morning practice. So, well, you see, it was the first, like January first, and, you know.

I mean, I did take a couple deep breaths, convinced myself I was meditating in the shower and did some forward folds while blowing my hair dry. It’s not exactly the pranayama/meditation/yoga morning practice I envisioned.

Today is different. Today I did it.

Today I sat for five minutes in meditation while silently repeating my mantra which was joined by a million urgent thoughts that really wanted me to open my eyes and write stuff down so I didn’t forget it, but I persevered. Five minutes can be a lifetime with a head full of really pushy broads.

I did 100 rounds of a breath called kappalabhati – or skull shining. It’s an energizing breath and probably my favorite. 2 rounds of 50.

Then I did a super abbreviated yoga practice, like 20 minutes, with one posture of each type: standing, balancing, back bend, forward bend, etc. But, I did it.

Why do we avoid what we know is good for us? Or is that just me? I fight yoga – the shape making part, the philosophy is woven into my every day, but the bending and stretching and ugh – but when I actually get onto my mat and move, I am so grateful for my practice. ‘Oh yeah,’ my body says, ‘this feels really good. I have so much more space and peace now.’

So, it was a slow start, but I started.

In the not so distant past I may have thrown the towel in altogether. ‘I blew it, ‘I’ll just start next month or next year or Monday, yeah, Monday’s always a good day to start.’ Honestly though, any good habit or major health- or life-altering decision I’ve ever made has probably been on a Tuesday or Saturday sometime between breakfast and lunch.

I’m calling it a lazy win. And I will gladly accept my trophy for just showing up.

 

 

Three for Three

Here we go!

We have the opportunity to hit the reset button the first of every month, the beginning of each new day, even the top of each inhalation, yet somehow flipping the page from one year to the next creates in us the need for an entire life makeover.

I get it. I’m in that boat. Every year. It’s the possibility of change, of an updated version of the me I already like with better features; more energy, an easier smile and less stress.

But are we just kidding ourselves? Am I just kidding myself? Again?

Maybe. Yet the exercise, the review, the hope seem like a really good thing, so I persist.

Nothing really ever goes exactly according to plan, yet we plan. This year is no different. But hopefully it is. Hopefully I will stop breaking promises to myself, stop lying to myself and trust that way more intelligent higher self within me. She’s inexhaustible and patient. She sits quietly by while all the crazy lower selves run around in circles convincing me that one more glass of wine is not going to hurt anything, that gluten is fine for me taken in small doses – like two or three cookies at a time – that sugar has been around forever so it can’t be all bad and that going for that walk tomorrow makes more sense than getting off the comfy couch right now.

She’s waiting. I’m ready to hang out with her now.

That band of lazy, chaotic pranksters needs to be put in their place. So, we, my higher self and I, are going to employ some different tactics this year.

Quick Reader’s Digest version of a familial backstory here that has led to this “new” system: My brother and I are a lot alike in our desire to be better, do better and take better care of ourselves. We want to better ourselves and the world. We chat ad nauseum about such things. And sometimes we actually do them. This year though, we decided to create a structure in which to give ourselves a better chance for success. And a way to hold each other accountable. It’s based on not a single stitch of personal research, it is instead based on our desire to improve and the subliminal messages of millions of hours spent reading the books, and listening to the podcasts of, those who seem to have cracked the personal best life mastery code. So here goes…

Three things in three months. Three for Three. To be repeated each quarter. Different goals each quarter, same system.

We each have a list of those practices we’d like to add in to our lives and a list of items or practices we’d like to eliminate. In addition, we’re both entrepreneurial so there are some business benchmarks we’d also like to hit.

We’ve learned through trial and [mostly] error that we’re not so good at this, and that attempting a clean sweep of all the bad and adding a dump truck load of all the good all at once is not only nearly impossible, but also not recommended. On the other side of the coin, choosing a moderate path just seems to find us wandering back into the same bad habits full of colorful excuses. And the ‘let it go and just be’ tactic trips us up as well. Although there is a component of that in this plan.

Let me explain. We need structure. This is a royal we so you’re included here. When we automate certain positive habits, we have more time for creative pursuits because we are spending less time stressing about what we should be doing. Think: brushing your teeth. You just automatically do that. As a kid you may have whined, bargained and drug your feet on the way to the bathroom sink, but now you get it and it’s a natural part of your day. THAT’S what we’re going for here.

To make it easier (we hope), we created three categories under which to place three of the changes we wanted to make in each three month time block.

  • Assimilate: Folding a good habit or practice into your day – pick one and commit to it for three months. Weave it into your life. Every day.
  • Eliminate: Choose one unhelpful habit or item, kick it to the curb and commit to its absence for three months. Every day.
  • Dominate: These are achievable business/personal goals. They differ in that there will be an end point; something measurable. Pick one commit to it for three months. Work it every day.

Here’s where I’m starting:

Assimilate: Morning practice. What does this look like? A combination of meditation, breath work and yoga. Some days it may be 10 minutes, others may be 2 hours. The time is way less important than the commitment to the daily practice.

Eliminate: I want to pick all the gremlins, but I am settling on alcohol. No one needs alcohol and when we hang out together we eat poorly and stay up too late. She’s fun and all, but we’re gonna take a break.

Dominate: Daily writing. Not journaling, but actual writing. Book pages, blogs, articles, etc. This is more on the personal than business side, but it’s been a struggle to get me to sit down and focus in front of my screen on the daily. Now it’s a priority. The measurable part? 1,000 words a day. Maybe that book will finally reveal itself.

The idea here is if the habit just isn’t sticking after three months I can let it go guilt-free and move on to the next three for three. If it sticks, great, it’s automated and it continues without much thought and I still move on to the next three.

The rest of the list? It’s long and includes things like no snacking, planting a food garden, 10,000 steps a day and consuming lots of water.

I’m hoping along the path of this journey I will stumble upon my keystone habit; that one habit that shifts everything and all those lists and plans simply fall into place. I’ll keep you informed.

How about you? How do you plan to love yourself back to health this year?

 

Going Places

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The page – or in this case, the blinking cursor – is calling me back. I’m not sure what exactly it’s asking for yet, but I’m open and making myself available.

Mostly it seems to be inquiring about travel.

In the middle of reading another inspiring non-fiction book on self-mastery, the question was posed … really the author demanded, that I finish reading the current sentence then go sit with myself somewhere and write down my dreams. All the crazy, seemingly unattainable ones, the ones that make me shudder with excitement, fear or anxiety, the simple ones – like having a place for everything in my house, I mean super simple – and any rogue thought that happens to pop into my head that might be a thread that leads somewhere magical.

On it. Aside from discussing consciousness with Christians, yogis and atheists alike, dreaming is my favorite!

Travel writing.

That’s what the Universe handed me on a slightly smudgy, obviously dented, silver platter. Gifts from the Universe often have to make a few trips around the sun before I’m ready to receive them. This one may frisbee back out yet before it sits beside me each day.

And I had to really study those two words because I don’t think they mean what they seem to say. I believe, in my case, they are meant as two separate commands that intersect.

Here’s how I see it:

Travel is my blood type, a plane ticket, a new passport stamp? Those are transfusions. When I don’t get to go places (by which I mean, when I believe there is something more important than wandering like laundry or running my businesses) I get sick. It’s not a normal sick, I’m rarely that. I get bitchy and itchy. I grumble a lot like an old man who wishes those idiot boxes were never invented and what the hell is a sofrita anyway, what’s wrong with meat and potatoes? That guy. The only antidote is travel. I’ve tried other medicines; wine, chocolate, yoga, they only take me so far.

Writing too has been my constant companion my entire life. Mountains of journals sit heaving in my closet, eyes rolling when they find out they’re not so special. Each one has the same list of how I want to structure my day and all that I would like to accomplish. Day after day. They get bored, my journals. I hear them yawn, audibly breathe the sigh of disappointment when I start rolling out a new plan. But when I start to describe the view from my hotel room that includes a black-faced monkey and the Ganges they start to perk up. They’re totally fine with packing lists for European treks and they especially like when I confess how a place has revealed something about me to me.

And there are blogs, once organized, now somewhat willy nilly, and mostly lately covered in cobwebs and neglect. It helps me, the writing. The publishing is scary, but it’s part of the process too.

Travel. Writing. Travel writing. These will likely never be the kind of stories picked up by Afar or Conde Nast Traveler. I’m not likely to tell you where to eat or what not to miss or what time to be at the Vatican, and which gate so you can bypass the line. But I will tell you how standing on the banks of the Ganges made me cry tears of connection to everything and while sipping red wine at a vineyard overlooking the Mediterranean in Lucca, Italy on the most perfect day ever, I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for this life I couldn’t speak.

I will share the humility I have gained by talking to a man who had no home and no shoes but smiled nonetheless and even gave the dog sharing his tarp the piece of bread I offered him. How he had enough. He was happy. He gave up everything and now whatever he needs comes to him. I will tell you that that is true abundance and I may even give you a hint of yoga philosophy lesson on the tenet of Aparigraha or non-attachment. Mostly because it’s a reminder and lesson to me.

The more I tell you, the more I learn about me.

Travel. Writing. They are symbiotic in my world. They need each other. One does not describe the other. When I look at them I can see them each on the bulbous sides of an infinity symbol.  Traveling opens me up and reveals the dark corners that need to be energetically vacuumed out, as well as the covered bits of light yearning to shine and share.

Traveling is manna to me. Writing is how I process and share my experiences.

So this is my big, anxious, hairy, exciting dream. I mean, a well-organized house is also still on the list, but it just doesn’t curl my toes like going places.

What’s your dream?

Diet Roulette

Ayurveda

I’m doing it again. The food thing. Changing it up. If you’ve lost track, as I have, let me recount the past few food philosophies I have adopted and what I’ve learned and why I’m switching again.

There was the juice cleanse. The intention was to drink nothing but freshly pressed green juices, mostly my own, for 3-5 days. Eat a little whole fruit in there, perhaps some all-vegetable salads with only cold pressed olive oil drizzled. It went pretty well, but really 3 days of that is not enough to reveal any great insights, and I got so bored. So, I moved on.

I was feeling an unreasonable amount of stuffiness and congestion so I investigated the low-histamine trend. It’s the newest shiny thing in the food world. It’s difficult, but I did it religiously for about three weeks then slowly incorporated higher histamine foods back in. I mean, no avocado? Come on! Plus, I was reading conflicting articles, apparently it’s a very personal thing, this histamine. I did however find relief from the congestion and I stopped my morning ritual of three sneezes upon rising, so a win, I would say. But not sustainable and not intended to be.

That brings us to Whole30. That blog was a few days ago. The Cliff Notes version: It was good and pretty easy for me.

But still, there was this nagging in my mind or gut or somewhere demanding attention that told me I had not quite figured it out.

Circumstances being what they were I was heading to Flagler Beach to take my love to an Ayurvedic Physician. There was a consultation, then the recommendation that he return for four days to do a cleanse for four hours each day. This involved a specific kind of lymphatic massage, a sweat box, a forehead oil drip and something I promised not to mention. Let’s just say, it was a big part of the ‘cleanse’. Back and forth each day. That’s about an hour and a half each way. But it’s the beach, so. Plus, I personally know and love the doctor here. He spent his first lifetime as a general surgeon, then shifted a little more than 10 years ago to Ayurveda.

A quick primer: Ayurveda literally translates to Science of Life, it is the sister science to yoga. Where yoga is mostly a spiritual path, Ayurveda deals with the physical health of the body as it relates to diet, the seasons and the rhythms of the earth. Together they are a comprehensive approach to health. Everything prescribed in Ayurveda is dependent upon your dosha – your body’s constitution. This can be determined by a quick pulse diagnosis by someone who knows what they’re looking for. Often our constitutions are out of balance and some tweaking with food, exercise, lifestyle choices, treatments like massage, activities like yoga and herbs, will help straighten everything out. Other times call for a detox to remove stubborn waste called ama.

As I mentioned in the Whole 30 blog, body intuition goes a long way to recognizing an imbalance, but it is often useful to get another opinion. I also mentioned how it would be so great to be a vegetarian. (That right there is a little thing we call foreshadowing.)

Well, while I was waiting in this spectacular giant home on the water with a pool at my disposal, I decided to schedule a consultation for myself. Turns out, according to Ayurveda, a vegan diet is what is best for me right now. Vegan. No eggs, no dairy, no meat. Kind of the opposite of Whole 30, but I’m game. My first question was, “Forever?”

One year, with check-ins every three months. I’m down. And kind of excited. From past experimental experiences, I can tell you that a vegetarian diet for a month or more always left me feeling clearer and lighter, but I was invariably pulled back to the other side by my habits. The every-three-month thing will probably hold me accountable. Plus, I can have dark chocolate, coffee and wine on occasion. Win.

There is still “no list” food in my home and I am awaiting some herbs, so I plan to use the next couple days to transition and start with full attention on Sunday. In the margins of my life I am also completing a Life Plan as directed by the motivational book Living Forward, which happens to have as one of its “life accounts” Health. This will be completed on Saturday so the stars seem to be aligning.

I’m such an over-achiever wannabe.

Junk Drawer

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If you’re following along with out purging process, you may be wondering why I didn’t start you off somewhere simple like a junk drawer or that closet that houses roller blades, winter clothes, wooden tennis racquets and bags full of mystery. The answer is simple: it won’t make a difference.

I’m not going for the temporary win here, I’m going for transformational.

A [more than likely misguided, but ultimately helpful] thief could enter your home while you’re at work, remove every item in that closet and junk drawer and you probably wouldn’t notice for months. When you needed a battery for the smoke alarm, probably or when you finally decide to toss that deflating exercise ball into the hungry maw of broken promises.

No. You may feel a momentary puffery of satisfaction for emptying these spaces, but you didn’t really do anything worthy of praise. Sorry.

We are working on areas that you see every day, that drag down your energy and make you want to leave town or nap until dinner. We are working with present day life stuff.

Make the junk drawer or the closet your reward after your first purge. PLUS, if you empty a drawer and a closet first, what do you think will happen?

Oh, I think you know.

You’ll have the best of intentions.  You will only put a few things in there, like holiday items and golf clubs. That is until you have company and need a quick place to stash all that extra stuff that won’t fit under the bed because you never got around to doing that because you were so busy patting yourself on the back for emptying the junk drawer and closet of things you didn’t even know you had.

So.

Peruse your shoes, paw through your clothes and remove a couple of items. I’ll bet you already know which ones. Then do a little more and keep going. It’s a lot like a new habit, it needs reinforcing. The empty space is your reward.

Then when you do need that 9 volt battery at the Autumnal Equinox guess what will happen? You’ll take 10 minutes to rifle through the drawer, throw anything away that is no longer needed, straighten up what you do need and walk away. Just like that. No ceremony, no struggle. You’ll be so pro at this you won’t even notice what you just did until you’re about to lay down to bed. And even then you’ll smile, just a little and not even share it on social media.

You’re that good.

Distillation

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I’ve come to recognize this process I’ve undertaken is more of a distillation than a purge. In actuality it’s both, but it goes far beyond letting go of physical things.

It’s showing me just how powerful thought is.

We assign meaning to everything, right down to a moth-eaten 45 year old outfit for a little boy. We attach people and situations to objects. This belonged to dad. Grandma drew that when she was just 17. There’s a story for everything and we add to it so much so that letting go of the item becomes painful. But ultimately can be so freeing.

While the home, spirit and mind cleansing practice has been taking place, I’ve rubbed up against some difficult choices. Decisions I’ve made difficult. You would have no problem throwing away or rehoming a tiny glass heart with no discernible marks. But it belonged to my mother, along with various other hearts she seemed to collect. And it’s not that, ‘oh, this reminds me of mom and every positive loving memory I have of her is wrapped up in this tiny glass heart,” sentimental kind of thing, it’s more about timing. And maybe respect.

How long do I hold onto something of hers just because she held onto it and she would want me to hold on to it? When is it okay and respectable to let it go?

Writing it out makes it sound as ridiculous as the thought construct from whence it came. These are inanimate objects that we animate with stories.

But its just a thought. Something I made up about that object.

It’s not just her stuff. It can be an item I purchased myself on a whim or a gift I have received, it doesn’t seem to matter. What matters is the story. Attachment to the story.

These items we hold onto, even though we don’t love them, are weight, a burden. As I write this I am looking around my room that is in transition – again – and I could discard over 50% of the items in here. Yet I don’t. I have my mother’s Tarot cards, and my grandmother’s; I have feathers collected by me and my mother; books I think I’ll read, but may never; a desk I can’t wait to remove; a box temporarily housing all the “meaningful” altar items I think I need, most of which I will pass along; and craft supplies for projects that may or may not manifest.

It’s all thought. Just thought.

It’s also an anchor, a cord to the past or guilt or shame, sometimes love and happy memories. But attachment all the same.

I’m not sure where I’m going with all these observations, it’s just where I am right now.

Oh yes, distillation. This feels like the right course of action for me. It’s taking 500 items and skimming 20 off the top, then taking a closer look at those 480 items left and swiping 100 items off the top, then pawing through and considering 380 items and removing 80 and so on until what’s left is the best of the best, the cream of the crop, those items I love, need and from which I gain inspiration.

I could remove everything from my home except a bed, a chair, a desk, one outfit, etc. Get rid of everything in one fell swoop. But there would always be that curiosity of what I had just given up; A cord to imaginary things, ghosts in fabricated stories that would haunt my imagination. I would wonder if I let go of something I needed or wanted but didn’t realize it. And it just feels ruthless and I would miss what is being revealed as the true gift in this daunting project.

With the luxury of going slower I am able gain the wisdom of the process. I get to examine my thoughts, tendencies, emotions and memories. I get to decide. I get to grow.

My goal is not to live in complete austerity. I love beautiful things, I just want a lot less of them. I am convinced that a peaceful, expansive life has everything to do with subtraction.

By taking my time I get to touch every single item I have chosen to bring into my home and my life and let it go. Or not. Or maybe not quite yet.

It’s just a thought. And thoughts can be changed. Even let go of.

 

 

 

Purge Surge

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The hubs and I went on a little road trip. It was just on the other side of 24 hours and a little over two hours away. But it created space. Head space and physical distance.

It’s true that wherever you go there you are, but just a short jaunt away for an overnight can dramatically shift perspective. You take your issues, prejudices, preferences and attitude with you, but not all your stuff. And stuff is something we’ve been working on greatly reducing.

Well, I have.

My husband flirts with hoarding, he calls it collecting, but tomato, tomahto I say. I keep him and his accumulation of stuff contained to the dining room and most of the garage. I have put up curtains on the opening to the dining room so I can close them and pretend there’s something magical behind them rather than the glut of books and paper that actually are. I also insist on parking in the garage so that keeps the clutter somewhat in check there.

But lately these two spaces seem to be overwhelming him, swallowing him. What was once his safe haven has become the bane of his existence.

Somehow, some where between home, the west coast of Florida and back home again he began to see what I was seeing and everything shifted.

We have a few antique spaces between us. He deals mostly in paper, I lean toward dark, primitive wood and creamy white things. I have one shelf in the garage where I keep “back stock”, he has those other two rooms. And sometimes things slip into the living room or a box is placed in the guest room “just for now.”

By the time we got home he couldn’t wait to tear through the garage and box things up for Good Will, recycle cardboard that seems to be breeding and drop well-intentioned craft project supplies off at the nearby artist studio. So far he has filled our enormous recycle bin (you could easily fit three bodies in there), a good portion of the trash can and dispersed a car load of things to new and grateful recipients.

And suddenly I can breathe better, he has more energy and those rooms seem a tiny bit brighter.

The trick, of course, is maintenance. Not bringing more in, not holding onto things just in case. Part of his shift in perspective is due to yoga. Not so much the postures, although he does do those, but more the philosophy that I’ve been sharing with him – in particular the Yamas and Niyamas – kind of the ten commandments of yoga.

There are pages and pages and pages that could be filled with the wisdom of these 10 tenets, but for now, I’ll share just the one that seemed to cause his head to tilt in that dog-just-heard-a-whistle-no-one-else-can-hear kind of way.

Asteya – non-stealing. It means exactly what it sounds like, don’t take other people’s stuff, but it has more meat on it than that. We steal time from others by being perpetually late (it’s not just how you are, unless how you are is rude, and I bet you’re not really). We steal joy from others by complaining or casting aspersions on their happy news. We steal the spotlight or thunder from others by sharing their news to others before they have a chance. We steal peace from others by talking incessantly, gossiping or intentionally creating conflict. Read: drama.

You get the picture.

In addition, when we take things we don’t really need and when we hold onto things because we might need them one day, we are robbing others of the opportunity to use what we’re squirreling away. There is a saxophone sitting in my garage and it has been there for 17 years. It has been unplayed for over thirty. Surely some young kid could totally benefit from a used or donated instrument.

It may have been that last statement that pushed the purge into action. Hoarder, pack rat or squirrel, whatever he is, above all else he is kind and he cares about the joy and artistry of others. I’m sure the sax will find its way to a new appreciative owner.

It’s just day one of the big push, but it is impressive and it is inspiring me back into action.

 

 

All in the Family

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One of the side effects of minimizing social media was to be time to work on THE BOOK. In truth there are a few books battling it out in my brain, but the one I have made the most progress on was my intended.

The India Book.

A lot of it has been written. Well, a lot has been written, whether it makes it into the mythic book or not will depend largely on my friends who honestly read and comment, a paid editor and my mood.

This was the plan until yesterday when I made the decision to pick up a memoir I had started reading some time ago – before I realized my world was not under my control – and now I am questioning where to put those writing hours.

The book is Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas. The cover promises a chilling, gripping, and thoughtful read and it does not disappoint. I am fascinated with Ms. Thomas’ self- assessment (and later professional diagnosis) of sociopath and what that means. Her stories of childhood, adulthood, her professional career as an attorney and volunteer Sunday school teacher and her dispassionate, yet raw and honest depiction of these things has me rapt. But more than the actual details of her life and her postulation that sociopathy is a cocktail of genetics and environment, I am deeply in love with her command of language and writing ability.

So much so, that I’m leaning away from India and closer to the “memoir” I accidentally started a few year ago.

By the way, I now understand why it takes some writers 10 years to complete a book. It’s not that they get up every morning and work from 9-5 pounding out prose and researching characters and methods of murder; it’s that they can’t stop editing and complaining and changing their minds. I’m guessing.

Perhaps writing a new chapter for the memoir will lead me back to India.

Telling the stories no one wants told. This single sentence keeps showing up in the front of my mind like a wall street ticker on an Apple product release day. Telling the stories no one wants told…Telling the stories no one wants told…

Sleeping with cousins, inappropriate touching, being slapped down the stairs into labor at nearly nine months pregnant, affairs, illegitimate children, alcoholism, murder, serial marriages, deceit, war, strength, undying love, suffering, living on a boat, living out of a car, killed in the line of duty. It’s all in my family.

It’s all part of my story.

 

Saving Elma

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I had a dream last night about my yard. It was scruffy and scrubby and for some reason I was surprised to be ashamed of it.

In truth, my own yard has, how shall we say… a natural look to it. It is in fact made up of mostly drought-tolerant, native plants. The front yard came with a towering live oak and preening magnolia, both of which shed leaves all year long. The back yard has an orange tree and out-of-control rubber tree as squatters from the beginning. Everything else we planted.

In the beginning of our occupation we added loads of native wild flowers: galardia, dune sun flower, porter weed, blue curl and our front yard was an explosion of healthy color. We just sort of let the plants take over. We let nature be nature.

Our landscaping philosophy prompted a new, now gone, neighbor across the street to stand with arms folded, one hand aloft to alternately rest on her chin and point to our yard while sharing with another new neighbor (also gone) that “they actually intend for their yard to look like that.”

Nature is messy, and like a child, it should be given certain liberties to explore. But also like a child it needs some discipline. Especially if you’re living in a deed restricted neighborhood. We did receive a lovely letter from our HOA in those early days citing us for our misuse of visible property. We fired back with an environmental manifesto and have been left alone since.

A few years after we were shamed by the HOA, the city encouraged native planting and less grass. We felt vindicated, but our yard was still messy. Again, in the natural sense.

I am compelled to design my yard, like I would an interior space, with a space plan and recommendations. I have, in fact, done this. Even to scale, but I lack the enthusiasm to implement or enforce it. Instead the yard upkeep is the domain of my husband. If I want to change it, I have to change it.

It remains largely unchanged.

Our back yard has been given more consideration. Probably because it is where I spend my time. We planted a winged elm, bay tree, a couple of privets and some other small trees. When I say we, I mean I supported the choices and effort while my husband did the actual work of planting.

We added a stone patio that I actually did work on and design and there’s a hint of a wall we lost interest in around one of the trees.

Our yard is small. If I stood in the middle of it and extended my arms toward our house (the screened enclosure) and the fence that proves this space is ours, I can practically touch both. I would love to have an open patio, with simple columns holding up a simple roof or even a vine covered pergola, but mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds hover just on the other side of the screen like desperate paparazzi, and they’re all looking at me. So the screen stays.

Aside the from the intoxicating fragrance of the orange tree in early spring, the winged elm has captured my heart. In fifteen years he has grown to over 30 feet from just a spindly little sapling. He drops his leaves sometime around December, stands stoic for a month or so then shimmers back to life with tiny green buds in March. Perhaps it is his timely deciduous nature that reminds me of trees from home that tugs at my inner nostalgia. Maybe it’s his happiness to return in the spring that makes me swoon.

Over the years, he has produced offspring, tiny shoots and saplings. They have started grow. Most are about a foot tall, many we have removed, but one has reached about 6 feet. It is a single sinewy stalk with thin, but strong little branches. She can’t stay where she is. There’s no room.

Next to our driveway we removed a diseased some-kind-of-myrtle tree a couple of years ago and that space feels naked. We decide to move the young tree here.

Her roots are long and we lose a few inches on them here or there but otherwise the earth released her easily. A deep hole has been dug and is awaiting her arrival.

It’s been a particularly hot and dry spring and we’re concerned for her survival. We water her daily, usually three times a day.

It has finally rained. And against the vibrant colors of wet nature, she is brown. All her leaves have turned brown. I touch her leaves gently, they’re still very soft, not brittle. I bend her tiniest branches and they still have life, they do not snap.

There is still hope.

I have named her Elma. She deserves a name.

This morning as I am getting ready for my day, Larry (that’s my husband) comes in looking bright, “Don’t give up!”

“On Elma?”

“Yes, two little green shoots around the base.”

“Her base.” I correct.

As he was tending to her and reconstructing the little moat around her tender roots he spied signs of new life. She’s strong. She wants to live out her dharma in our front yard and provide shade during the brutal summer months.

And when she gets bigger and stronger she will be able to see her dad over the house. I’m pretty sure he can see her.

And I’m certain he’s been encouraging her.