Finding Peace in the Process

I’ve been struggling, friends.

It took me a while to figure out why because I am doing all sorts of adulting over here, and adulting is stressful with all it’s deadlines, health issues, decisions, spouses, kids, chores, lists, life, death, etc. So I guess when I noticed myself feeling a growing sense of anxiety, I just accepted it. A (lying) voice told me to accept it. This is what happens when you grow up. The responsibility catches up with you and of course you feel awful. Right?

It was a total stranger who made me question this voice.

I know this might seem strange, since I find myself writing some private thoughts to all of you, but I am typically a deeply private person. Maybe too private.

But I am learning. I am watching the wise people around me who go through crisis, and you know what they do? They reach out. They circle the wagons and they gather the village and they lean. I am watching. I am learning.

So when this voice was really messing with my head one day, and my rock/bff/husband was out of town, I reached out to some… strangers, really, on an online group I belong to. This group has nothing to do with grief, but it’s a cool group of women, so I took a breath and dove in. It was much longer than this, but I’ll summarize my post as,

“I’m stressed, I’m sad, I’m not parenting well. I’m grieving. I’m failing. Help.”

The very first line of the very first response I got was this:

“Grief is big, it is real, and it is long.”

You know what that felt like? Permission. I read on…

There were others. There were online hugs, wishes for peace, great advice. But I think the most impactful messages were, like the one above, from women who had also lost loved ones and were still grieving. These women were 18 months, 3 years, 6 years out and still they grieve. I found these to be the most comforting messages, so of course I had to sit down and figure out why.

I thought about how much comfort and peace I am finding as I simplify and declutter my home. And how that experience feels so different from the other big decisions in my life right now.

What’s the difference?

When I declutter a drawer, the drawer is decluttered! It’s neat, it’s clean, it’s tidy, it brings me a sense of peace. Like, right then.
When I grieve, parent, meditate, or ponder some of the big decisions that we are facing right now, there is no tangible result. There is no beautifully decluttered part of my brain or heart or life that I can step back from and admire.

Instead, these things are all just part of a slow and usually invisible process.

I think, looking back, that I have been putting quite a bit of importance on the anniversary of my dad’s death. February 4th came and went. I had gotten through all the seasons and holidays and firsts, and yet…
On February 5th I was not magically restored. I was not done. I had not checked grieving off my to-do list. And maybe…definitely… I was disappointed. In myself.

And that pressure to see instant results, I now realize, was seeping into the rest of my life. I was taking processes like parenting and learning and healing and deciding and trying to turn them into prizes. Finish lines. Boxes to be checked. And then I struggled and wondered why I was so impatient and anxious all of the time.

I forgot.

I am not on this planet to check boxes. I am here to live. To grow. To be kind.

I forgot that it’s on the journey itself that the living happens.

And now I am remembering.

I am remembering that the parenting happens every day, in all the minutes. As my very wise friend told me once, “All of those minutes matter.” I will continue to simplify my home and life because it allows me more of these minutes. And I will not put pressure on myself and allow frustration that it is not done yet. I will live the “doing” just as much as the “done”.

And that goes for the other things too. These decisions that have to be made and healing and growing that needs to be done… it all happens in the journey. The answers will come as I am living my best life, and making time and space for what matters.

I am already seeing little differences. With no finish line to run to, I am more patient with myself, and with my sweet kids. I am yelling at them less. I am giggling with them more. I am taking more time for myself, my husband, and my kids, because… really, that’s what I am trying to get more of anyway.

Living and learning, over here, my friends.

I’ll just close by wishing for you what one of my wonderful stranger-friends wished for me that day.
“Big hugs. I wish I could send you a cup of tea, and a quiet spot to sit and just be. “
Wishing the same for all of you!:)

Embrace the Imperfection

Last week, as I was wrapping up class, one of my former students stopped in and asked if I had a minute. Sometimes, just the way a kid says these words makes your teacher spidey sense kick in, and you know to drop everything else.

We stepped into the office as my class packed up, and this usually upbeat student unleashed a mountain of anxiety and stress. He is a performer, and had a show coming up. Long story short… the deadline was looming and he just didn’t feel like he was where he wanted to be. To him, this translated to meaning that he was not good enough and man, was he rattled.

I can’t tell you how honored I feel when a kid comes to me like this. There is so much trust and bravery in it, and I feel such gratitude toward the kiddo for opening up and such responsibility to do right by them.

I took a deep breath, mostly to sort through my thoughts and what I wanted to say.

And then, I fumbled along…I reminded the kiddo that he is an artist. That art, like life, is messy and imperfect. That life and learning doesn’t go in a straight line, and that we can’t expect to reach perfection… ever… because that implies there is nothing left to learn. That the best thing we can do for ourselves and our passions is to embrace the imperfection.

He looked at me and repeated slowly, nodding…. “Embrace the Imperfection.”

When a kiddo does that, you know you said something they needed to hear.

And yet, as he repeated it back to me, I realized that it was exactly what I need to hear as well.

It’s been a difficult and also remarkable year for me. Discovering this new lifestyle of simplicity and minimalism has been a game changer in such amazing ways. Writing this blog has helped me focus and helped me heal. And yet, I have these moments where I look around and realize I have so far to go, so much to learn, and so much I want to do! Sometimes I look at all the areas of the house that are still chaotic, or that need a second or third (or fourth) round of decluttering, and I get discouraged. I have books I want to read, lessons I want to improve, and people I want to connect with.

And on the grieving side, I have times when I know I have made progress and then a single song or photo or memory will derail me for days.

So having this kiddo look into my eyes and say to me, “Embrace the Imperfection…” well, I think it was no coincidence that that phrase popped into my head. We both needed to hear it.

There is a reason I named this blog “Crooked Path to Simple.” “Crooked” wasn’t meant to be a lamentation… it was my acknowledgment that the paths we take in life are not straight lines. They bend and curve, and sometimes even double back. There are rocky areas, and plateaus, and inclines so steep you have to climb them on bloody hands and knees. The thing is… it’s all part of the journey, and the sooner you embrace the journey, the sooner you can get on living a life of gratitude, even during the rough times.

So I am going to find that student next week and thank him for coming to me and working together to figure out what we both needed to hear…that we are not in a race to perfection in this life, we are on a beautiful journey, and we are happiest when we do our best to embrace all aspects of that journey.

I don’t need to be anywhere other than exactly where I am… with my house, my grief, my life. Neither do you. And as my dad used to say, “90% of life is just showin’ up.”

So, as crooked as my journey may be, I am going to keep living and learning with all the gratitude and awe I can muster… to me, that’s showing up.

path

How it all started… THE PURGE


Last year, after a 5 year break from teaching to stay home with my Littles, it was time to go back to work. I reluctantly admitted to myself that yoga pants and tank tops are not work-appropriate, (except on Halloween? Can I be a yoga instructor?) and set about bringing my boxes of old work clothes up from storage. At about the same time, my mom retired and sent me home from a visit to her place with about 2 decades of her old work clothes. And then, of course, I had to make some purchases… teachers get new school clothes too, right?

To accommodate this influx of clothes, I booted my husband’s stuff out of our spare bedroom closet and claimed it as my own. I excitedly pinned beautiful photos in a board I dubbed CLOSET ROOM and set about creating my peaceful, zen-like dressing room. I bought a funky jewelry holder, moved my most prized piece of furniture into the room, found the perfect paint color, and made it exactly what I had imagined. No more off-season clothes storage for me! It was all here… won’t that make life so much EASIER?

Nope.

You probably already see where this was headed, but my space, although beautiful, was anything but zen-like. It was a newly-painted room stuffed to the brim with clothes from every season of my life (and my mom’s career) dating back to my swinging single days, sparkly tube tops and all. But I didn’t see it….yet.

The school year started, life sped up, and before I knew it, my Pinterest-perfect room was a disaster. There were so many items to organize, fold, clean, consider, put away, and even just to look at. Each item claimed a bit of my attention, time, and energy. One night in Spring I was online, just browsing around when I came upon this article by xoJane. She was describing her quest for a minimalist wardrobe, and was attempting to whittle her closet down to 10 items. That’s not really what caught my attention. What caught my attention was her method. Specifically her first two steps:

Step one: “Confront your closet…start the cleanout by reaching in to grab every piece of clothing that you love.”

Step two: “Examine [these items] to see if a theme emerges.

She continues on, all the way to step 10 to keep up the process, but I was already hooked.

First, I realized that I had very few items that I LOVE. This massive closet room was full, and it was full of things that didn’t quite fit right, or were just not very comfortable, or didn’t really go with anything else… you get the idea. And second, when I pulled out what I actually did love, then that would show me what I was truly comfortable in. It would show me What my style actually IS, not what I want it to be or think it should be. I could take my all-over-the-map wardrobe and hone in my actual style. On ME. On simple.

Here is the kicker. Deep breath. It’s confession time.

That night, I pulled over 130 items of clothing out of my closet and threw them on the floor. I looked over the pile (yes, including the sparkly tube top) and realized there was not a single thing I would miss.

I stepped back to admire my handiwork, and…

I hadn’t even made a dent. 

My eyes had been opened. There was no going back. I have waaaaay too much stuff.

Since that day, I have launched this family on a journey to simplify. It started in the closet, but it is spreading into all corners of our life and we are loving it. As my husband says, “This minimalism thing isn’t just about the stuff, it’s about everything!”  It’s a movement to remove anything from our lives that distracts us from what is most important to us. I’m reading books, reading articles, talking to wise people, writing as I go, and going through a ton of trial and error, and just trying to define this new path of whatever form of minimalism works best for my family. I am so excited to write about this crooked path and our insights and challenges along the way, and I hope that it becomes a place where you can do the same. I know this message of more simplicity is one that resonates with so many people, and I would love to invite you on this journey with us!