The Problem

plant

After a year of disposing of the spoils of my late husband’s accumulating, aka hoarding, there was still a lot of stuff in the house.  In my naiveness, I assumed that if you want to minimalize, you simply get rid of stuff.  I read books and articles, and I had down pat the rule, “if you don’t use it, don’t love it, get rid of it.”  Stuff remained.  That’s about the time when I realized THE PROBLEM.

I love and use a lot of stuff.  My whole life needs to be examined, not  just my stuff.  If I’m going to simplify my life, I need to look farther/deeper than just the stuff.  A diletante by nature, I have somehow taken it to new extreme levels.  I go in too many directions with all my stuff in tow.

I’ve had to think about what’s important to me, and there are still decisions to make.  I love blogging, so it’s going to take place here.  Welcome to Connie sorting her life!

These are briefly the basic areas that I have identified to date:

ART – I do pottery, but most of that stuff stays at Mudworks.  Alas, I also like to paint, draw, sew, cross-stitch – well, just about any crafty thing you can imagine.  Of course, it all requires stuff – acrylic paints, charcoal pencils, pastels, canvases, sewing machine, pattern books, project kits, how to books.  I have boxes and boxes of loved and needed stuff.  Goal is to pare down my art.  Do I really need to do it all?

HOBBIES – I love photography.  I love family history.  I love gardening.  If these things stay, then a lot of other activities need to leave.  After all, for my own well being, I do need to keep my bicycling and yoga, and they have been at the tail end of my list for too long.

COOKING – Now that I’m cooking for just myself, I can’t decide how or what I want to do.  Sounds crazy doesn’t it?  Do I want to eat vegetarian? vegan? gluten-free? Paleo?  Should I cook country style? Italian? French? Bake my own bread?  I gave away most of my cookbooks, and yet somehow I still have forty or so, all because my cooking goes in so many directions.  Not just cookbooks, but all the gadgets that go along with it.  I can juice, make pasta, decorate cakes – it’s overwhelming.  And I’m not even cooking!

FINANCES – After years of priding myself on my simplified record keeping, I am overwhelmed with the stacks (more like boxes!) of papers.  Who knows how it happened, well okay, I can trace it all back, but I found myself with accounts at too many institutions.  At the time, I’m sure there were reasons, but it’s gotten out of hand.  The process of paring accounts down isn’t as close to my heart as art and cooking, so the simplifying is quickly happening.

WORK – Here again, too many directions.  This is how some of those accounts came into being.  If my CPA business wasn’t enough, I added some other small (but time consuming) ventures including creating e-courses for creative entrepreneurs.  This area is going on the chopping block.

GENERAL STUFF – Yes, I have too many clothes, too many books, too many personal care products.  Slowly, it’s heading out the door.  These are easy decisions, once I realized my bigger problems.  I have heeded the “I wanna do ____” far too many times, and stuff just naturally follows along with it.  I’m sort of like the plant above, growing is too many directions, with one thing leading to another, and just about to tip off the ledge.

I’m committing myself to simplifying my life, and then I can deal with the stuff.  Who knew simplifying could be so complicated?

 

Becoming a Potter

It’s funny how seeds that are planted decades ago have a way of persisting and sprouting.  January 1970, I tried to throw a pot.  “Someday, I’m going to do this.”

potter

January 2015, forty-five years later, I started wheel-throwing classes at Mudworks.  Lots of things through out my life have come easy to me, and if they didn’t, well, then I just didn’t do them.  This certainly isn’t the easiest thing I’ve done, but I’m not giving up which is a relatively new thing for me.  In addition, to throwing nice pots, I think this wheel-throwing has even more to teach me.

Non-attachment, for example.  Even if you throw a pot that you like, there are still numerous other opportunities for its demise before it becomes a finished pot.  Cutting off of the wheel, drying to leather stage, trimming, bisque firing, glazing and final firing are all hazards the pot must survive.  In my short time of classes, I have already destroyed a good pot at each of those stages except bisque firing which I’m sure is coming soon.

Letting go of perfection for me is sometimes a problem, although I’ve been working on it for the past couple of years.  The clay we use in class is recycled and used again, so it makes it easy for me to toss a mistake into the recycle bin.  The problem is, as the instructor and the other students keep telling me, is that if I don’t save some pots, then I won’t have anything to use for practicing glazing.  Even with their imperfections, I’ve been keeping some pots.

Being in the moment and focusing my attention is a tough one for me.  When a pot is spinning, the slightest movement is exaggerated.  Countless potential pots have gone to the recycle bin because my attention wandered.  I’m working on it.

pots1

This is my first batch of pots.  I got lucky on some of the glazes, but I don’t have a clue how to do it again.  I’m resisting pointing out the problems with these pots, and hopefully in the future my pots will improve.  And maybe I will too.

A Year of Thought

For almost a year, I have been in thought.

thoughts

It hasn’t been that I was unhappy or sad — well, of course, I was sad some days, but not all days.  A fog surrounded me.  I did my regular things in a fog.  I thought that if it were not for the fog, I could think more clearly.  I thought about it.  And when I finally put my finger on it, I realized that joy was missing.  I thought I might never feel it again.  What would life look like?  I thought about it.

I felt that I needed a plan for the future.  And I thought about it.  I sat outside this summer enjoying the quiet and the solitude; nothing but birds chirping and my thoughts.  What would the next phase of my life look like?  I thought about it.  I couldn’t picture it, unless it was a continuation of my routines, work, etc.  I would continue to exist.

As the fog cleared, I realized that I want to live, not just exist.  That I need to create this next phase of my life.  Can I picture it?  No.  But I’m stepping out of my comfort zone, and I’m determined to live.  A year is long enough to think about it.

Exploring and trying new things are filling my days.  Getting back to writing on this blog is part of my exploration.  My heart is aflutter.  I can hardly wait to share with you all of the things that I’m doing.

 

 

Day 9 – Gettin’ Zzz’s

Functioning without adequate sleep is stressful.  So, I’m assuming that getting enough sleep is one of the requirements of de-stressing.  I don’t have a good handle on this sleep thing.  I think I’m sleeping fairly well these days, but then out of the blue — a night of elusive sleep.sleep blogHere’s what I know will keep me awake:

  • Caffeine in the evening.
  • Watching a thriller type show before bed, and for me it doesn’t take much to be a thriller.
  • Getting sleepy and forcing myself to stay awake longer.
  • Any confrontations before bed — best just not to talk to me.
  • Knowing that I need to be up early the next day, and trying to force  myself to sleep quickly.
  • Working right up to bedtime.
  • A hot shower right before bed.
  • A barometric pressure change.
  • Having a nap during the day.
  • Worry.
  • Light.
  • Noise.

And here’s what I know helps me to fall asleep:

  • A warm, relaxing bath before bed
  • Reading a short inspirational reading before bed, or reading a semi-boring book.
  • About an hour of calm before bed.
  • An overdose of carbohydrates — obviously not a good choice.
  • Knowing that I can sleep in the next day.

Sleeping shouldn’t be this complicated!  Ever wonder why they call it, fall asleep?  Just what takes you from one state to another?  I’ve never been one of those lucky people who get into bed, and no matter what the conditions, they are immediately are asleep.  Clearing my mind and paying attention to my above lists seem to be the most reliable way for me to cross from awake to asleep.  Yet, even after all these years, I don’t have the process of passing from one state to the other down pat.

What are your tips for good sleep?

Mind on my Brain – or – Brain on my Mind

Day 7 of BlogtoberFest and 31 Days.  Obviously, day 5 and 6 are missing.  Everyday is just too much blogging for me, and probably too much reading for you.  Yes!  As a public service, I’m saving you from excessive blog chatter.

On to minds and brains, which does have something to do with stress reduction.  I’m not being chased by lions; there is no “thing” out there to cause me stress.  Yet, my body continues to respond as if that were indeed what was happening.  My cortisol overload is coming from my mind, from my thoughts.  mind blogThe mind and the brain have always intrigued me.   When I was a philosophy student a zillion years ago, Immanuel Kant was my hero.  Kant believed that time and space are constraints that we put on our perceptions rather than being something outside of us.  Of course, this is a simplification;  after all, it took him volumes to say it.  Never the less,  it gave me a starting point for understanding.

This interest was peaked again a couple of years ago by a TED Talk by a neuroanatomist, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, who had a stroke.  If you haven’t seen this, and I know it’s 20 minutes long, it really is worth it.  She’s funny, too.  Since watching it, I have read her book My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey several times.  I read it again this summer, and now it seems that every book I pick up has to do with brains and thoughts.  You’ll be hearing more about this gray matter.

Would love to hear what you think of Dr. Taylor’s TED talk, and if it gives you pause for thought.  It’s on YouTube here and has been viewed over 2.5 million times.