Do you ever have days when you feel like starting over again shortly after you get up? I am talking about a bad hair day, or a day when your clothing or even your face just doesn’t look or feel right to you. Maybe you feel like you want to hop back in the shower and have a “do over,” but of course you don’t have time. Or, maybe you are at a point in your life where major changes are happening but you aren’t sure you are ready for them or how you want to respond to them?
In my case, my children are moving out and starting their own lives and I am not sure what that means for me. One daughter’s room is empty. I mean empty. We let her take her bed and desk, art, and, well, everything. The other daughter’s room is an empty shell. She basically has two more years of college but she rarely comes home. Her bed is there. Her closet is mostly empty. A shell. It appears to be a bedroom but it really isn’t an occupied bedroom.
My feelings may be more about internal stuff rather than external stuff. It honestly would be easier to clean out a dresser drawer or a closet shelf and have a garage sale than to dig out some of my inner junk, sort it, discard some of it, and reorganize the remainder. What is the new plan? I try to sort through the clutter for my internal garage sale by asking myself some questions and deciding what to prioritize and where to go.
Could I fix something if I just work a little harder at it? Maybe, if I had a thirty-six hour day. Instead, I try to recall the Serenity Prayer (Reinhold Niebuhr): “God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.” I lack Wisdom (though I try to work on it—in my “spare” time). I also need to remember that I am not in charge of everything like I pretend to be. If cancer didn’t teach me that, at least, then I learned nothing at all.
Would my life be simpler (better) if I could just tweak a few of the people around me a little? Sometimes I try to, but I quickly get nowhere. These are the times when I need to remind myself that the only person I am responsible for is me. I can’t change other people. Instead of slamming myself into assorted brick walls, I might be better off to work on me. The only person I can change is me. I can’t change my children. I wouldn’t want to change them. I can change how I choose to react to people and to changing situations around me.
Finally, how can I cope with my vague sense of unease or disgruntlement, which sometimes plays inside of me like bad background music? A wise friend once told me how I could make my outside match my inside—Act with integrity. Do my external behaviors, how I spend my time, match my internal priorities and values? What are my new priorities? If I claim family time is a priority, but I bolt out the door four or five nights a week, I am not being true to myself. When my insides and outsides (actions) match, the bad background music plays more quietly.
Inner simplicity is a long process for me, but when I take the time to work on it, I am rewarded. When I look calmly at the changing landscape, take a breath, and decide to choose my new priorities and directions, everything goes better. Many books that address inner simplicity offer help restoring patience, priorities, and perspective, as well as the forgotten art of practicing gratitude for what I have rather than worrying about what I don’t have. “Happiness doesn’t depend on how much you have to enjoy, but how much you enjoy what you have.”(Tom Wilson)
Here are a few books for you to consider, if you are interested in clearing the clutter in your inner life: Inner Simplicity: 100 Ways to Regain Peace and Nourish Your Soul by Elaine St. James (Hyperion, 1995), Plain & Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish by Sue Bender (HarperOne, 1991), and a classic Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Pantheon Books, 1991).
The books I have read are helpful reminders to me. I still suffer from the “want everything better, faster, stronger syndrome.” I define that as a self-inflicted feeling of inadequacy that will always say that I am just not “good enough.” I am working to get over it. I am helped by a quote from Michael Joseph that says: “Remember: you have intrinsic value and goodness. You don’t have to prove it by ceaseless productivity.” This is #5 in Play Therapy (One Caring Place, Abbey Press, 1990). A good friend and mother of four shared this with me a long time ago. She kept it posted right above her kitchen sink. That makes sense to me. How about for you?
Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips readers may pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs. She is also a breast cancer and melanoma survivor who wrote Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We’ll get you through this. Free monthly clutter clearing tips newsletter at http://www.clutterclearingchoices.com.