Last December I set myself an ambitious task for 2014—to find and comment on a positive blog every day. I had been wanting to read more uplifting and inspirational material online, but hadn’t known where to find it. My site was less than two years old, and I hadn’t yet written many entries or commented much on other blogs. I wanted to do more, building connections and broadening my perspective. My goal was to improve myself while having a positive impact on the culture with my writing.

I had a conversation with a friend (as described in this post) about setting small changes in motion that radiate out to the world, simply by brightening one’s own life. That gave me the idea of going on a virtual quest to find positive blogs, while keeping a chronicle of my discoveries for the benefit of both myself and my readers. I named this project the Random Kindness Blog Tour because I didn’t know what I might find, which made it random, and also because bloggers enjoy unexpected kind comments. I chose Kindness and Positivity as my words of intention for 2014.

To give myself impetus to follow through, I publicly committed to it on my blog as a New Year’s resolution. That felt scary at first because of the unknown time requirements—I had no way of knowing how long it might take to find a positive blog on any given day! What if I got overwhelmed and couldn’t keep up the pace, or if it took so much time that I couldn’t do anything else all year? But I decided to look at it in a playful way (as discussed here) just like going on an adventure.

After the project got underway, I found that it wasn’t nearly as difficult or time-consuming as my worries had made it out to be. Positive bloggers naturally attract commenters who have an optimistic mindset, plus they often include positive sites in their blogroll. So I always had plenty of links to follow and new sites to investigate. Even if I got busy and missed a day’s entry, I always managed to find two positive blogs the next day to catch up. As the page of links got longer, it became a powerful visual reminder that the world is full of good people—all one has to do is look! That in itself helped to banish gloomy thoughts.

I found many inspiring sites and made new friends, including the Nurturing Thursday bloggers—I’ve started thinking of them like an online support group. Their encouraging words have helped me to deal better with disruptions, work on getting clutter under control, arrange my house more comfortably, and remember to appreciate the moment. As a result, I’ve had more mental energy to put toward my writing this year, along with reading and commenting on more blogs.

I’ve also been reminding myself that not everything needs to be done right away, on a schedule, or perhaps even at all. Today’s world is so full of possibilities, it can be hard to decide what to do. Having so many options leads to anxiety about making wrong choices, wasting time, and not getting things done. Usually it’s needless anxiety because nothing calamitous would happen anyway. Mistakes are more likely to be useful learning experiences than disasters, and neglected tasks may not matter much as circumstances change.

Although the fast pace of modern society can make it seem like a constant rush to keep up, there’s really no need to let life get so hectic. Incremental changes can have powerful, far-reaching effects without consuming huge amounts of time. Persistence is what’s needed, along with setting clear intentions and allowing enough quiet, unhurried moments to notice the beauty and abundance all around.

Surprise gifts are always fun. My husband gave me a small gift-wrapped box in 2000 that held a key ring with a brown leather fob, and he told me to guess what went with it. For a moment, I wondered if he had bought me a new car! The other gift turned out to be a matching brown leather purse, which I used and enjoyed for many years.
 

Brown leather handbag 

After a while, the purse became less useful because it was not designed to hold a mobile phone and lacked the small pockets that a modern handbag would have. But although I stopped using it, I kept it anyway because of the good memories. Moral of the story: Bag it! Even if something was a nice gift 15 years ago, it doesn’t have to be kept forever. Although clutter of the good memories variety may feel better than random heaps of junk piling up, the house ends up full of old useless stuff just the same!

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!

On Christmas morning it’s easy to find our presents. All we have to do is look under the tree and pick out the ones with the tags that say they’re for us. Life would be so much simpler if every day could be Christmas, wouldn’t it?
 

Christmas tree with presents all around. 

But going through the rest of the year, it’s not so easy. Sometimes we really have to hunt for those presents. When we let ourselves get too busy to appreciate the moment, they can seem very far away. Life starts to feel like we’ve been slogging through wet grass looking for Easter eggs on a cold, rainy April day, but all we found was a bit of squashed chocolate that somebody stepped on.

Of course, heaps of wonderful presents are all around us every day—sunshine and trees, family and friends, a good meal, a comfortable home. Getting too busy to notice them is like forgetting it’s Christmas and walking right past the tree without paying attention!

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.

December 23, 2014 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

I’m on vacation this week and next, so this seems the right moment for composing the final entry in the series that began in July with Tithing Time and then moved on to Attracting Time. In these posts, I have been exploring the concept that when we donate time (or anything else), we naturally attract more of it by reason of having a more abundant mindset.

At first I wondered if I might find it easier to organize my schedule, thus causing me to feel that I had more time. But what actually ended up happening over the past few months was more disorganization—nothing really major, just some unexpected and distracting events that left me feeling off my stride. Definitely some lessons about patience in there for me!

Among other things, my daughter did not move to Cleveland as she had planned, but instead met a new boyfriend and decided to find a job closer to home. So she is still living here, along with her dog (who is curled up at my feet comfortably snoozing as I write this). Boyfriend and dog are both very nice, so there is really nothing for me to complain about, other than my daughter’s atrocious clutter in the hall closet and the house not being as quiet as usual.

Because I felt distracted, it was already December before I thought about how much unscheduled vacation time I had left. As with most jobs nowadays, my vacation days do not carry over from one year to the next, but must be used by the end of the calendar year. I had told my manager that I wanted to take off the last two weeks of December—that was scheduled already. But I still had three days left in this year’s allotment, after subtracting the two days I donated; and, of course, by then no Fridays were available because my coworkers had snapped them all up. I ended up taking a Wednesday off and working the other days.

So, the final result of my time-attraction experiment was that after donating two days of vacation time to a coworker who was caring for a dying relative, I found myself short two additional days because I got too distracted to do anything with them. Although this obviously wasn’t one of the possible outcomes I’d had in mind, on reflection I would say that there really was a positive shift in my mindset, however circuitous the route to it might have been.

In past years, I always paid close attention to my vacation balance and made sure to take whatever was coming to me. After all, it was part of my compensation, just like money—so, if I ever had given back any unused vacation days to the company I’d have been just as annoyed as if I carelessly lost money! But something changed in the way I thought about my vacation time this year, and instead it seemed like no big deal. Vacation time, work time, whatever, it soon will pass. Why worry about it?

To be clear, I don’t mean that my holiday time off this year is any less enjoyable. On the contrary, the past few days have been peaceful and relaxing. We all need time to rest and recharge! But what we don’t need—and what I hadn’t realized I was doing, until now—is to hoard time like a long-ago miser sitting on a heap of gold coins. Holding onto anything too tightly, whether it’s time, money, or old stuff that has turned into clutter, means there’s no space left to hold anything more! And that is a lesson I would consider well worth the money equivalent of two vacation days.

I bought a pretty green velvet dress for a holiday party 19 years ago, and since then I have worn it a grand total of once (to a Kentucky Derby party). Because it’s so flouncy and fluffy and formal, I never thought of wearing it just to go out to dinner, or any other ordinary occasion. It felt more like a dress-up costume. So it has mostly just been sitting at the back of my closet gathering dust.
 

Long green velvet dress with short puffy sleeves. 

I’ve decided that even though the dress is pretty, anything that gets so little use is clutter and should be donated to the thrift store, where it can be bought by someone who loves it and will wear it more often. That will give me space in my closet for new things I’ll enjoy and use more. Although I don’t yet know what those new arrivals may be, I feel that by disposing of old things I no longer cherish, I am putting a stop to stagnation and inviting fresh positive energy into my life!

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!

If what we focus on becomes reality to us, then what effect does the common expression “I’m so tired of…” have on the world as we perceive it? I would say it’s a double whammy—not only does the annoying thing or situation become more noticeable, we also end up feeling physically and mentally tired whenever we think about it! So I suggest an alternative: Kick the habit of complaining about being tired of stuff, and regularly take time to notice things that make us happy instead.

I would call this an in-the-moment version of a gratitude list—it’s about paying attention to, and drawing joyful energy from, one thing at a time. They can be very simple things, such as: Yay, I’m wearing a pretty new sweater today! Woo hoo, I love that song on the radio! Hooray, it’s a beautiful sunny day! And if we look around and can’t find much in our surroundings that gives us positive energy, then we should bring in a few cheerful things, like fresh flowers.
 

Flowers in a glass vase on the kitchen table. 

Alternatively, if clutter is the most energy-draining thing in the home, then it would be helpful to remove things. Simply being in a clean and well-organized house every day can go a long way toward reducing stress and creating a more peaceful life!

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.

If peace could be held in the palm of one’s hand, what would it feel like? I sometimes meditate on this question, imagining that I am holding peace in my left hand (because it’s nearest to the heart). This is a stream-of-consciousness exercise focusing on the sensations, images, and words that come to mind, however randomly.

It might go something like this: Peace feels soft. Although peace fills the hand, there’s almost no weight to it. Like a handful of fluffy little cotton balls—or maybe cotton candy. Pink cotton candy, like soft pink clouds at sunrise. Or blue like the sky.
 

Pink and blue cotton candy.

(photo credit: publicdomainpictures.net)
 

But peace is not sticky like cotton candy. It shapes itself to the hand and stays in place naturally, so there’s no need to keep a tight grasp. Peace won’t run away either. Like a friendly puppy, it wants to cuddle up and stay close—best not to squeeze too tightly!

Peace glows with a happy light, giving a pleasant warmth that travels all through the body and radiates out to the Universe. Peace is for sharing—it doesn’t need to be hoarded because there’s always more where it came from! Sometimes it dances too, just for the joy of existing—like the Snoopy Dance, maybe, with that cheerful piano music playing.

Even after ending the meditation and letting the images fade, peace is still there invisibly, as though it evaporated into the surrounding air while leaving a fresh, natural scent—like a summer afternoon when a gentle, cleansing rain is about to fall.

Ever since I started a regular exercise schedule in 2002 and lost some weight, I’ve had a suit hanging in my closet that is one size too big. I bought other new clothes, but because my job does not require me to wear formal business attire, I just thought I’d replace the old suit when I got around to it. After all, it was still wearable even if it didn’t fit perfectly.
 

Suit with striped jacket and blue skirt and vest. 

Of course, after I thought about it, I realized that keeping the old suit for so many years made no sense at all! If I wanted to attend a formal event and didn’t have anything else to wear, I would go out and buy a new suit anyway, rather than dredge through the depths of my closet and show up at the event wearing something that was both the wrong size and out of style. But after all this time, I had gotten so used to seeing it in my closet that I didn’t pay any attention to how totally useless it was!

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!

After a long string of very dark midwinter days, I’m looking out the window today at brilliant sunshine in a completely cloudless sky. When the sun came up this morning, the bare branches of the trees looked bright and golden—almost as if they were glowing with happiness to greet a long-lost friend.
 

Bare trees glowing in winter sunrise. 

Although the lack of daylight at this time of year often causes people to dwell on gloomy feelings, it doesn’t have to be that way—we can instead choose to see winter as a time for quiet reflection and appreciation. Winter gives us opportunities to feel more gratitude for the little things, such as a lovely sunrise that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

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.

To read all posts in this series from the beginning, click here.

 

Intentionally setting the direction for the rest of one’s life is quite an ambitious task, but that is what’s called for at the twelfth and last step of a recovery program. Moreover, this direction is not simply a general effort toward better habits; it is envisioned as a spiritual journey. Step Twelve of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) says: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

How does this powerful statement fit into the context of negativity? When we develop more understanding of the harm done by negative thinking, we’re not just letting go of the particular negative thoughts that caused our problems—we are removing heaps of grungy old mental clutter and freeing up space to invite more beauty, peace, and joy into our lives. Then we are empowered to share our creative energy with others, bringing more kindness and joy to the world in ways we might never have imagined. We go through our days feeling more awake and alive. A spiritual awakening, indeed!

This bold vision is tempered by a reasonable dose of humility, in that it acknowledges not everything is going to work out perfectly. What’s required is to make the effort: “we tried…” I believe there are worthwhile lessons to be learned from unsuccessful efforts, in that they help to make clear what works and what doesn’t, so that more can be accomplished the next time around. That said, when something fails we shouldn’t just give up and say, oh well, we tried. If we start feeling like that, we might do better to look for motivation from Yoda: “Do or do not—there is no try!”

Carrying the message, in AA groups, means setting a good example for others and sponsoring new members. When we’re talking about negativity through online interactions such as blogging, rather than an actual recovery group, I would say it means keeping a positive tone in all the writings we publish, including comments on other people’s blogs and on social media. No personal attacks, no rants, no excessive drama. It also means avoiding pointless online arguments. Sometimes constructive criticism can be useful, both as to individual mistakes and as to cultural problems; but there is rarely anything to be gained from posting comments into the sort of threads where people yell at each other for days.

And finally, what are the principles we should seek to practice in all our affairs? I would put honest self-evaluation at the top, along with cultivating the belief that help will be there when we need it—that we’re not just struggling through life all on our own. Whether that belief is framed as having faith in God or more generally as having trust in the workings of the Universe, it goes a long way toward reducing the anxiety that underlies addictive behavior. And when we accept the discomfort of acknowledging our mistakes and correcting them promptly, we find that it’s not nearly as painful as avoiding our problems.

I hope that these virtual meetings have been helpful and that the upcoming year will be a good one for us all! If something I’ve said in this series of posts resonated with you, please take a few minutes to write a comment, provided you have the time. I would love to know!