I could hear the clatter of freezing rain when I woke up this morning. My daughter’s puppy (a.k.a. Diva Dog) wasn’t at all happy about being put outside to do her business, but stood next to the sliding glass door looking at us with big sad eyes as if to say, “You really expect me to go out in this?” The sky was so dark that when I sat down at my desk, I turned on the flameless candle that I keep to brighten my workspace on such mornings. I bought it to remind myself that I always have plenty of time (as discussed in this post) because time is a constant and there is only now.
 

Flameless candle beside mouse pad 

The rain didn’t last long, and the sun came out for a while, looking brighter and higher than in the past months—as if sending a message that winter’s end is not far away. This year I haven’t felt stuck indoors and gloomy because of the cold weather, although not many days have been above the average January temperatures. I believe that’s the result of making efforts to cultivate a more positive outlook and to appreciate the moment. Even on a dark morning with freezing rain, there is always something to appreciate, starting with the simple fact of being indoors with cozy warm central heating!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

January 28, 2015 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Dear people who gossiped about me online five years ago,

If you are reading my blog, no doubt you’re surprised to see this entry, after all the time I spent pretending you didn’t exist. Rather than saying anything to you, I decided to treat you as far beneath my notice and deserving no attention whatsoever. I told myself that I wasn’t even going to think about you because, as the saying goes, brooding on a grudge is like letting a person one despises live rent-free in one’s head.

But the grudge never actually went away, even though I cultivated an attitude of being much too tough to care. As long as I despised you, I couldn’t evict you. That negativity got dumped like toxic waste into the depths of my psyche, bubbling and reeking as it slowly decomposed. So I came to the conclusion that the only sensible thing to do was to forgive you instead.

In every situation, there are useful lessons that can be taken away. Forgiveness has to do with appreciating them and moving on. So I asked myself: What insights did I gain five years ago? In what ways has my life changed for the better since then? Are there any parts of that experience for which I can honestly feel gratitude?

There’s no doubt I benefited from learning the value of personal branding. Because I wasn’t a business owner or a celebrity, it never had occurred to me that there might be something to gain from building a consistent “brand” online. I didn’t understand that without proactively defining myself, I was letting other people’s random remarks determine my public image.

When that lesson sank in, I registered my name as a domain and started using it for my email and for this blog. Most likely, some other Meg Evans would have taken the domain name if I had waited much longer; so the fact that I took timely action, which I probably wouldn’t have done absent the unpleasant wake-up call, is the second item on the gratitude list.

Although at present I am using this domain only for a personal blog, I’m also building a solid online foundation for potential future business activities. For example, if I began writing ebooks, I would already have a well-established website where readers easily could find me. I wouldn’t need to make major changes to my site, but could just add a page about the books—easy peasy! That’s item #3 on the gratitude list.

Another related lesson I took to heart is the value of authenticity. In the past, I had been overly cautious about keeping the details of my personal life out of other people’s view. I worried that if I said too much about my fears, weaknesses, or mistakes, then I would leave myself vulnerable to nasty remarks from bullies. So I avoided such topics, believing I was safer that way.

But in fact, hiding my true self didn’t make me any less vulnerable. On the contrary, because my acquaintances lacked a good sense of who I was on a personal level, they were more likely to be influenced by gossip than if they had known more about me. If I had allowed my confident, authentic self to come out and sparkle in all my social interactions, embracing candor instead of surrendering to fear, then everyone would have known better than to spread rumors that obviously didn’t match who I was.

And finally, I’ve developed a healthier sense of how to build and maintain nurturing relationships. When I was younger, I still had a lot to learn about setting boundaries. I put up with negative stuff that I never should have allowed in my life, mainly because I hadn’t yet realized the extent of my personal power. I didn’t fully understand that I could design my own life and contribute to a kinder culture through my intentional choices.

Now I focus on steering my life where I want it to go, rather than just drifting along with the current because I didn’t feel that I could expect better. I no longer waste my time and energy on other people’s melodrama. The world is so full—so wonderfully full—of better options to discover! And for that, also, I am grateful.

Namaste,

Meg

Meditating on emptiness can be unsettling. Because our busy modern-day culture associates emptiness with lack, loss, and not getting things done, the idea of voluntarily inviting emptiness to pay a visit—even if it’s only for a few minutes of meditation—can get scary. Sometimes it feels like walking out into the desert alone, with nothing but sand dunes and clear sky in every direction, and having no landmarks to find the way back.
 

Desert photo of sand dunes and clear sky.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

All those busy thoughts flitting about in our minds have become so much a part of our identity, how can we possibly just set them aside and then reassemble ourselves later? Won’t all those balls we’ve so carefully kept in the air come crashing down? Meditating on an imaginary scene, such as a quiet bike ride or a walk in the woods, seems easier. That gives the mind a peaceful focus, but the background mental chatter still goes along for the ride, if more quietly than usual.

Although contemplating emptiness can be scary at times, I suspect that’s when it is most needed. Today’s world is so full of noise and random stuff everywhere, we might believe that is the normal way of things if we don’t pause to reflect. Emptying the mind of clamoring thoughts and worries doesn’t really mean nothing is left; rather, it makes space for awareness of life’s smaller details—such as what breathing feels like.

Even in the desert, it’s not really empty. A hiker would notice such things as gentle breezes, insect sounds, a hawk soaring far aloft, sand shifting with every step, a snake sunning itself on a rock, and a cactus at the edge of a dry gully. The world is full of spaces that only seem empty until we take the time to look more closely at them.

Yup, I have to admit it, I’ve got one of those clutter horrors of modern life—an extra room in the basement that ended up as a junk room. When my family first moved into our house, we weren’t quite sure what we were going to do with that space. Then we decided that it would make a good exercise room, with a treadmill and an elliptical machine. But we never got around to buying them, and slowly the junk buildup started…
 

Extra room in my basement full of boxes and other stuff. 

It all seemed so harmless at first—some old Halloween costumes in the closet, and a small desk that I moved from the children’s study area because my son had outgrown it while my daughter could still use it. As the years went by, junk got put on the desk, around the desk, and in other parts of the room. The closet ended up full of old linens and old clothes. Then my kids graduated from college and put all the stuff they brought home in that room. At that point the closet became unusable, with boxes and suitcases and lots of other things blocking the doors.

Instead of dealing with it at that time, I put off the chore, thinking I’d wait until my daughter moved out. But she is still here, along with all her stuff, and doesn’t yet have a definite move-out date. So this week I decided to start working on that room a little at a time. Because the small desk was the catalyst for all the mess, getting rid of it first seemed appropriate. I also disposed of two worn-out desk chairs and moved some stuff that wasn’t junk away from the closet doors.

Then I opened the closet and got a strong whiff of mildew. The culprit turned out to be a pair of my son’s wrestling shoes from high school. Ew! Thankfully, my husband volunteered to bag up those moldering shoes and take them out to the trash can. To show my appreciation, I got some tasty steaks for dinner and made sure he was well fed!

About Clutter Comedy: Every Sunday (which I envision as a day of rest after a productive week of de-cluttering) I post a Clutter Comedy article describing my most memorable clutter discovery of the week. Other bloggers who wish to join in are welcome—just post a link in the comments! There’s no need to publish any “before” photos of your clutter, if they are too embarrassing. The idea is simply to get motivated to clean it up, while having a bit of fun too!

Because my daughter has been here longer than expected since she graduated from college last May, we’ve all been stepping on her dog’s toys for months. So we decided it was about time to start training the dog to pick up those toys. In addition to playing with the usual chew toys, the dog gleefully nabs stuffed animals from my daughter’s room whenever the opportunity arises. We put the toys in a laundry basket, with a blanket at the bottom to raise them up high enough for a small dog to reach easily.
 

Laundry basket full of dog toys and stuffed animals. 

I don’t know if the dog will actually learn how to put away the toys and start doing it consistently before my daughter moves to an apartment. But even if we do more of the picking up than the dog does, it’s worthwhile because the house is much more comfortable without dog toys scattered all over the place. There’s a useful lesson in that, I’d say. Just a little effort to get things better organized can go a long way toward a more pleasant environment, no matter whose toys are in need of picking up!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

This is Part 18; click here to read Breaking the Ice from the beginning.

 

The high school football field’s bleachers bustled with activity as late-arriving spectators found seats after the opening kickoff. Down on the field, the players lined up. Mark got into his position—outside linebacker, his first game as a starting player. And very likely his last, too; he was just filling in for a concussed teammate and couldn’t expect to become a first-team player in his junior year. Not when he had never stepped onto a football field until high school, while all the other boys had played on pee-wee teams long before. That gap was too wide to close, no matter how much he lifted weights and studied football strategy.

A camera flashed in the stands. Probably his dad, who came to every football game without fail, even though Mark was lucky if he got to play a few minutes at the end of a game. His parents had hung framed photos all over the house—Mark playing football, Mark standing in front of the high school with his books, Mark smiling for the camera at the neighborhood Fourth of July picnic. He wondered if that was supposed to make up for all the years when he hadn’t been part of their lives.

The first play was a run, stopped for no gain. Second down was much the same, with the opposing team gaining only a yard. Now they would have to throw. The quarterback looked for open receivers on third down and evidently couldn’t find any. He sprinted to his left, still looking for somewhere to throw as Mark took an intercept course. Then he saw Mark coming and backpedaled. Bad move. Mark put on an extra burst of speed and tackled him five yards behind the line of scrimmage.

Dust flew up as both players hit the hard ground; the field wasn’t in the best shape this year, with bare spots in the weedy grass. Mark didn’t care about that—he got up grinning with a helmet full of dust, as cameras flashed and cheers erupted all around. Life was good.

Well, sometimes life was good. Other times, not so much.

The quarterback spat into the dust and then glared at him. “Wipe that stupid grin off your face, retard. We all know your last school was an institution.”

Mark had heard several versions of this insult since he started high school; there wasn’t much that could stay secret among the rumor mills of suburbia. At first he hadn’t known how to deal with it, but then he figured out that it was just dominance behavior—not really any different from the apes and wolves he’d read about in biology books. So he worked on showing a dominant attitude, using trash-talk videos on YouTube as his model and practicing his delivery in the mirror.

The actual words didn’t matter much, he had concluded; it was all about having the right tone and delivery. Mark quickly sorted through his mental inventory of rude comebacks and picked one that seemed to fit reasonably well.

“Your mama’s so ugly, she hatched under a rock. Maybe you saw her down there while you were eating dirt.”

Smirk, swagger, chuckle. Then ignore the angry quarterback and saunter off the field as the punt return team comes on. Keep up a confident stride—it’s all under control, nothing hard about it, really. Just like acting. In the off-season Mark’s extracurricular activity was drama, not so much because he enjoyed it but because he saw it as a survival skill.

He’d gotten a lot of compliments on his acting ability last year…

“Woo hoo, great punt return!” His teammates’ whooping and gleeful chatter brought Mark back to awareness of the moment. Standing on the sideline, he’d been so caught up in his own thoughts that he hadn’t even noticed what was happening on the field. That was okay—he could fake it, same as always. Just smile and put plenty of enthusiasm into his voice, and nobody would ever know that his mind had wandered.

“Yeah!” Mark promptly joined in the cheering, even before he looked to see where the ball had been spotted. “Awesome return!”

Some books are classic works that get better with age, like a bottle of good wine. Others, sadly, just get obsolete and end up as clutter. I discovered one of the latter variety while tidying my bookshelf recently—an etiquette book I’ve had since 1984, with a copyright date of 1978. With all the cultural changes since then, and the fact that this book long predates the Internet and many other modern technologies, it’s not the most useful resource to keep around.
 

The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette, 1978 edition. 

I also threw away some tattered paperbacks and put a new Bible on my bookshelf to replace one that was worn out. Then I started to wonder if there was any ceremony for proper disposal of an old Bible, as with an old flag. I consulted the etiquette book to find out whether it had anything to say on that topic, but there was nothing. So, naturally, I went to the Internet for an answer. I found that although some people prefer to ceremoniously bury an old Bible, no particular method of disposal is required. Looking that up took only a few minutes, so I don’t think I’ll miss having an etiquette book on the shelf!

About Clutter Comedy: Every Sunday (which I envision as a day of rest after a productive week of de-cluttering) I post a Clutter Comedy article describing my most memorable clutter discovery of the week. Other bloggers who wish to join in are welcome—just post a link in the comments! There’s no need to publish any “before” photos of your clutter, if they are too embarrassing. The idea is simply to get motivated to clean it up, while having a bit of fun too!

When I wrote my previous entry on Tuesday about cultivating creative energy, just before posting it I found myself thinking: Should I save it for Thursday? It fits the self-nurturing theme, and what if I can’t think of anything better for my Nurturing Thursday post?

Then I realized a “what if I can’t” attitude like that was very far from nurturing! Blogs are meant to be full of fresh new entries; and a blog author needs to trust that a good flow of creative inspiration will be forthcoming, instead of hoarding ideas like a greedy dragon jealously perched on a treasure chest.
 

Figurine of a green dragon on a treasure chest.

(Dragon figurine bought from StealStreet via Amazon.com)
 

Hoarding, whatever its object, never comes from a place of healthy self-nurturing. It always grows out of fear and doubt. The underlying script is, “If I let this go, I might not be able to get anything new to replace it, and then I’ll just have to do without.” The more hoarding that people do, the more their subconscious narrative of never getting anything new becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The converse also is true—when we regularly let things go and trust that our lives always will be full of abundance, lots of good new things are likely to show up! Just as soon as I decided to go ahead and post Tuesday’s entry, the idea for this post came to mind. If I had hoarded that entry instead, I’d never have thought of this one!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

Generally, leaving tasks undone sucks up a lot more mental energy than taking care of them promptly. But this time of year, when the days are cold and the nights are long, sometimes a lack of energy feels as if it comes from the season instead. That can lead to excusing procrastination with an internal narrative along the lines of, “I’m too tired to do a good job on that now, but I’ll work on it later when I feel more refreshed.” Too much of that, and the tiredness persists while the more refreshed feeling never comes. Creative projects, in particular, end up getting stalled.

So I’ve decided to give myself an attitude adjustment whenever I catch myself thinking like that, by changing my self-talk to convince myself that I have plenty of creative energy. Even if I don’t feel energetic, I take a few minutes to imagine myself working on the project and zipping easily through it. I tell myself something like, “I have lots of creative energy to put toward this, and it’s going to be so much fun and turn out great! I’m feeling fresh as a field of daisies!”
 

Field of white daisies.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

Of course, there are days when I haven’t gotten enough sleep and honestly can’t focus on a creative project enough to do much with it. I’m certainly not suggesting that we should all force ourselves to check off tasks on the to-do list when we’re half asleep! But even on days when going to bed early is the best choice, we can cultivate creative energy by picturing how things ideally would go, instead of reinforcing a lack of energy with thoughts of feeling tired.

If we’re always telling ourselves that we feel too tired to do anything, sure enough that’s what happens! But when our self-image shifts to having lots of joyful energy, then we’re likely to feel more inspired the next day and get much more accomplished, after catching up on sleep.

I was replacing some worn-out file folders when I started to wonder why I still had folders with checking account statements dating back to 1987, from a bank that no longer exists because it got acquired in the recession five years ago. All the information on the statements has been saved in Quicken since my husband bought an early version of that software program in 1990 for our first computer, which means the paper has been entirely useless for the past quarter-century!
 

Five old file folders with bank statements in them. 

All these years, I kept folder after folder of monthly statements that I never looked at again after reconciling them, for no better reason than because that was how I got in the habit of keeping financial information before we had computers. Sometimes it seems like the more clutter I get rid of, the more I realize is still around here lurking! Oh, well, at least I have a good robust shredder. It got such a workout that my husband made sure to oil it promptly after we shredded all those old bank statements!

About Clutter Comedy: Every Sunday (which I envision as a day of rest after a productive week of de-cluttering) I post a Clutter Comedy article describing my most memorable clutter discovery of the week. Other bloggers who wish to join in are welcome—just post a link in the comments! There’s no need to publish any “before” photos of your clutter, if they are too embarrassing. The idea is simply to get motivated to clean it up, while having a bit of fun too!