When life is gone, stuff remains

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Last week I was popping into a few antique stores in search of a modern-rustic (oxymoron?) spoon rack for the set of silver spoons I recently was given from my grandmother’s collection.  While in and out of the stores I noticed several signs for an estate sale nearby.  It was a beautiful sunny day, so I went.

When I first walked in the door I noticed the amazing view!  The house overlooked the escarpment and river – I was in the USA but I could see Canada clearly across the water.  I perused the entry table and saw several sets of silver spoons.  There must be a spoon rack!  I asked the first two estate sale workers I saw, but they were positive there was no spoon rack available.  Another speed bump in my search for what was apparently an elusive find, yet I continued on and decided to browse through the house (my true motivation was to just look at the house – it was grand and unlike other houses I had seen before).

It wasn’t long before I felt extremely uncomfortable.  It seemed pretty obvious that this was someone’s long-time home and I think it was pretty safe to assume that the person had passed as everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) was being sold.  For example, I saw a woman walk out with a plastic cutting board.

I felt like I was intruding into this person’s life.  I heard people laughing and balking over finding or not finding something – it all felt really disrespectful.  I kept thinking about who this person was as I trampled my unfamiliar feet through their bathrooms and hallways.  There were skis and snowboards, there was a meditation room, an office with a telescope – it seemed like an adventurous person had lived there.  There was a ton of possessions.  Clothing, kitchen ware, sofas, desks, lamps, silverware, pillows, books, movies, electronics – the list goes on.

Aside from feeling like I didn’t belong in the house looking at things that weren’t mine, the other major thought I had was how we really “can’t take it with us when we go”.  There was so much stuff!  I understand why a family would have a full estate sale, even down to the plastic cutting boards: it’s just too much!  How does one decide what to toss, donate or keep?  Memories are in everything we own.  It’s a huge job especially amid the sadness of losing a loved one.  Also, this stuff filled a mansion – how could anyone move it all?

I left the sale feeling very odd.  As I have tried to make sense of my mixed emotions that day, I have also been paring down my possessions.  I’ve been asking myself what to toss, donate or keep.  I have remembered things and felt emotions as I’ve gone through the items in my home.  I think that’s it – memories are in everything we own, but they are not physical.  We can take memories with us whether we have the stuff or not.

I hope that no one ever has to hold an estate sale for me.  I hope that I can find life and memory in people and relationships, and while stuff can be the vessel I use to make memories (like skis or a telescope), I hope I don’t ever put more value on it than on those in my life.

If a bunch of strangers do someday go through my things and make jokes or act disrespectfully in my home, I will come back as a ghost to scare them and their children.

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Self-Reflection

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I learned self-reflection during Sunday School as a pre-teen.  I don’t remember exactly how, but I do know that the concept was introduced to me there.  I think it was when our teacher told us that when we pray, we should include prayers of thanks and praise and not just ask God for a bunch of things.  Aha!  Be less self-centred.  Think of things in a new context.

I know it doesn’t seem to relate exactly to self-reflection, but for me, this was the beginning of learning to really analyze my own thoughts and actions and to step outside of myself.

Self-reflection has come in very handy for me in marriage.  When I find that I am overwhelmed with anger or frustration and I am blaming my husband for it, I try to calm down and realize what it is about me that is causing me to have these emotions (and my usually loud, obnoxious reactions). It is almost never as easy as blaming my husband; it usually comes down to something bigger that’s bothering me and I am taking it out on him, or it’s stemming from something I don’t like about myself and it’s easier to blame my husband than face the fact that I could be my own problem.

If you haven’t self-reflected, you need to.  I do most of my thinking at night as I settle into bed.  Sometimes I bounce things off of my groggy husband and he will give me validation and honesty.  When I realize that there is something about myself that I need to change, I make a plan on how to change and work hard to put it into action.  For example, there was a time where I harped about someone for a few weeks and it seemed like the person was simply under my skin and too in my face.  However, upon further inspection of the situation, I realized that I was in a funk, revelling in negativity, and that the person was in my space because they were trying to be helpful and kind.  When I accepted that I was the problem, not the other person, it made it easier for me to enjoy the person being in my space and to get rid of the cloud of negative-thinking that has been following me.

It is imperative that everyone self-reflects.  I’m sure you have come across someone in your life that you feel just cannot see the real situation.  They are blaming you for their problem, and that is wrong.  You know it, I know it, and anyone outside of the situation can see it.  The only way for the person to see that they are, in fact, the problem (not the person to whom they are transferring) is for that person to self-reflect.  The first step is admitting you have been wrong to yourself, then you can go about righting those wrongs for others.

Remember: we can’t control other people, we can only control ourselves.  Do yourself a favour and make self-reflection a regular activity in your day.  You will feel better and you will improve all of your relationships.  If you learn this now, you will be so far ahead of the game as you get older.

If I Stop Being a Pleaser, Will People Still Like Me?

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If I could teach young girls anything, I would teach them to think for themselves and then act on those thoughts.

people-pleaserI am just now, at almost 30 years old, learning to think for myself.  It’s not that thinking for myself wasn’t nurtured by the adults in my life; it’s that I always wanted to please others so much that I didn’t allow my thoughts to be heard with conviction.  It probably stems from a lack of confidence or, in some cases, from feeling less intelligent than the other person with whom I was conversing.  I know that there were times I wouldn’t express my true thoughts because I didn’t want to seem confrontational or cause problems.  I wanted to be likeable.

If I had a nickel for every time I stated my opinion, listened to a rebuttal and then backed down saying, “Yes, I see what you mean, you’re probably right,” I would be rich!  Rich in money, poor in spirit.

Due to my people-pleasing desires, I never allowed myself to develop my own firm thoughts and opinions.  This enabled me to waiver so easily on my stances because I did not have a solid foundation.

The first thing I am trying to work on is really asking myself what I think on a daily basis.  In an ideal situation I would have facts and examples ready to back up my every thought, but I do think that simply feeling in my gut where I stand on something is enough.  I am supporting myself in my thinking.  I am allowing for my mind to wander and explore all possibilities without worrying about how my thoughts will impact someone else’s opinion of me.  What do I really feel and think?

That is the first step, and it is pretty difficult!  That mind shift is tough because it is so deeply embedded into who I am.  Sometimes I wonder if I should give up because I think that deep down I will always be a people pleaser.  This leads me into the next step, which is figuring out how to be firm in expressing my thoughts and opinions without being abrasive toward others.  This is a quality that I see and admire in successful leaders.  I can be confident in myself and still be engaging and kind so that others want to converse with me.

I’m fairly confident that I know how to express myself and still maintain a calm conversational environment.  The one element that I am not so sure of, is if people will still like me if they know that I might not agree with what they have to say.  How others perceive me is out of my control and I keep reminding myself of that fact, but it is difficult to stop caring about it.

I am best at being firm in my thoughts and beliefs when it comes to protecting someone or something else.  For example, if I have to have a difficult conversation with someone but I know that it is in their best interest in the end (I did a lot of this while in social work), I am able to get through the uncomfortable parts.  If it involves the best interest of a child, I am able to have uncomfortable discussions with parents.  If I can do this for others, why can’t I do it for myself?

There is another thing that goes along with the desire to confidently express myself, politely agree-to-disagree with someone else and to not worry what the other person will think of me after – the ability to stand up for myself when I am passive-agressively insulted.  Have you ever had a moment where someone said something to you and you thought, “What the…” but because of they way they smiled and maybe gave a small laugh after you couldn’t decide if it was a joke or a jab?  This type of thing drives me bananas!  Usually I find the perfect response to their comment about 20 minutes later while driving in the car.  I want to be able to call people out on passive-aggressive behaviour.  I want to send a message that I am a kind person, but I will not be walked on.  I think that’s fair.

There is one more scenario I am concerned about and this is the most important one: what happens when I the people I want to please are the people that mean the most to me?  If I suddenly change from an agreeable person to a person with strong opinions, will they still like me and want to hang out with me?  Maybe they like me so much because I am so agreeable.

I feel like this could be seen as a personality shift and I think lots of people like me because of my personality.  I am going to have to find the right balance in the way I approach conversations, especially when I feel a strong conviction to express myself (whether it is the popular or unpopular opinion), because one thing I know for sure is that I must begin to be true to myself in the way I express my thoughts.  I must be my authentic self, expressing my true thoughts and feelings, or my life with be riddled with hypocrisy and dishonesty.  I feel like a baby learning to walk, stumbling along the way, but I have my whole life ahead of me, so I must press on because one day I hope to run.

Wild

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"Wild" by Cheryl Strayed.

“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed.

I have been putting off reading this book for far too long.  I am not sure what was intimidating about it to me – perhaps I was scared that it would ignite something in me that couldn’t be snuffed.

I have set a goal for myself for 2015, and it is to hike the length of a beautiful trail near where I live that is 890km end-to-end.  I will not be doing this all at once (which I am told takes 30 days), but in segments.  I would like to finish the gorgeous end of the hike in a few days’ stretch.

So, what better time to dive into “Wild” then while planning my own hiking goals for the year?

Holistic Approach to Wellness

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Did you know that our health and wellness is affected by more than food and exercise?  Sometimes it’s hard to remember that to be truly healthy we must be balanced in all areas of our lives.  Wouldn’t it be nice if marketers pushed introspection instead of diet supplements as a means to happiness?

I have been putting a lot of thought and effort into reevaluating where I am at in the following seven categories:

Spirit, Physical Health, Mental Health, Emotions, Intellect, Nourishment, and Relationships.

*There are other important things like finances, goal-setting, letting go/permission to change – I put these items under other categories but feel free to add them to your “most important” list.

Each of these things makes up a portion of my well-being.  Therefore, when I am fulfilling every area, I feel whole.  On the other hand, if I am lacking in any of the aforementioned categories, I tend to feel fruitless and bored and my self-esteem is usually decreased.

Approaching holistic health takes work and commitment, but after some time it becomes second nature.  The important thing is to remember that once you’re in the groove, feeling good and fulfilling yourself in all of the seven categories, you must check in on occasion to make sure you’re not leaving anything out.  It’s too easy to not realize you’ve been slipping until you’re all the way back at the bottom of the hill.

Here is my web, illustrating my holistic approach to wellness:

Start with a web.  These are the seven categories that I believe to be important.

Start with a web. These are the seven categories that I believe to be important.

Here are the ways that I fulfill each area of my life:

I realize that I left out finance.  I would put my financial health under "Mental Health", because when my finances are healthy my stress level is down.  When I check back in with myself in a few months, I will make finance it's own bubble.

I realize that I left out finance. I would put my financial health under “Mental Health”, because when my finances are healthy my stress level is down. When I check back in with myself in a few months, I will make finance it’s own bubble.

Goal-setting has not been a priority of mine for a while (although I have done it subconsciously off and on for the last few years), so I have decided to make it a conscious part of my life this year to see how it impacts me.

I have been implementing a “less is more” lifestyle these past few months and am looking forward to continuing with that.  I can tell that my mentality around “stuff” and what it can give me is changing.  For example, I might go to a store and put a few things in my cart as I wander the aisles.  After some times passes and I look at more and more things I feel bombarded and I really don’t like being marketed to.  (The next time you shop, ask yourself what the marketers must think about you to try to sell you items in the ways that they do.  Hint: they really don’t think too highly of you or care about your holistic well-being.  In fact, they usually prey on our biggest insecurities in order to make money.)  I look into the cart and decide that none of these things are worth the time I will spend in the checkout line or the money I will spend from my account.  I would rather spend my time and money on experiences and people I care about.  *This will also positively impact your finances.

(Confession: my weakness when it comes to shopping is my home.  I love decorating it and rearranging it.  I do allow myself to do this because my home is my sanctuary and it helps my creative juices flow to reimagine spaces.)

Here is something to remember as you ask yourself honest questions and work toward figuring out what best suits your holistic approach to wellness:

Never forget this.

Never forget this.

It is not necessary to make all of your life decisions today.  Decide what’s best for you today, and if that same thing is not what’s best for you tomorrow, you can change your mind.  You are allowed to change, but YOU must be the one to give yourself permission.

All is calm, all is bright, sleep in Heavenly peace

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On Sunday I had the pleasure of singing carols through the halls of our local retirement residence with some lovely people from church.  We sang all of the traditional songs and passed out homemade cards and clementines as we wandered through the building.

The most touching moments were seeing people smile, listening as residents joined us in song and hearing stories of their memories brought back from either the song or the clementines.

The most overcome I felt was when we sang Silent Night to two separate residents, both of whom were bed-ridden and could hardly, if at all, open their eyes.  I never realized how fitting that song is for the end of life.

Silent night, Holy night

All is calm, All is bright

Round yon virgin, mother and child

Holy Infant, so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace

The Meaning of Christmas

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After spending an hour sorting food donations for families at Christmas, the youth of the church I attend and work at went back to the church for some prayer.  It was lovely and I enjoyed seeing the kids let this message really sink in.

I think that this passage from Matthew 25 really shows the meaning of Christmas.  Whether you consider yourself a Christian or not, I think that most people can get behind the notion of helping others whenever you can.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Christmas stress – get rid of it!

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I have been following the Becoming Minimalist blog by Joshua Becker, and everything he posts makes me shout, “Right on!”

Being in the Christmas season, I want to be enveloped in the important parts of this holiday – giving, togetherness, relaxation.  I want to be able to focus on the hope, peace, joy and love of the advent season.  However, in our consumerist society, it is easy to get caught up in being too busy, buying too much, attending too many events and stretching everyone too thin.  I have been trying really hard to let go of the unimportant things and to give myself time to have peace.

I run the children’s programs at church and yesterday was the Christmas pageant.  I worked hard to have everything ready ahead of time so that I could show up Sunday morning, have a great, stress-free play with the kids, and watch them enjoy their Christmas party afterward.  I slept well the night before and I was not nervous at all for the morning.  It was a great feeling.

Once at church, I noticed we were missing a key member of our volunteer team and upon further inspection, I found out that she was down with the flu and wouldn’t make it in.  This could have thrown me for a major stress-out session, but I didn’t allow it to. Yes, she was going to pick up apples and candy canes on her way in.  I am a huge stickler for offering healthy portions during the meals we feed the kids, but I thought, oh well!  The kids will just have pizza and chips.  One time won’t kill them – and let’s face it, they will not mind begin without apples one bit.  No candy canes?  That’s ok!  We have beautiful cards to pass out to the congregation after the play ends.  Who will be in charge of setting up the coffee hour and lunch for the kids?  We have plenty of extra volunteers this morning.

Everything went fine.  I was sad that our friend missed seeing the pageant, but I was glad that I stuck with my desire for the day, which was for it to be stress-free.

It was a lovely day.  The kids were awesome!  Everyone was fed.  Clean up went quickly.  The rest of the day at home was perfect and relaxing.  Just what this season should bring!