Shell Shocked!

Many years ago I went through a life situation that pulled the carpet right out from under me. I was sad and depressed for a long time, a couple of years in fact. During that time I didn’t recognize the person in the mirror staring back at me.

My 21 year marriage had ended in divorce and it tore my life into shreds. I thought I would never smile again, never experience joy, and never be at peace. During the worst of it all I fled to Myrtle Beach for two months just to settle my thoughts and perhaps figure out a new direction for my life. While there, I did a lot of talking to God and I wrote an account of something major that happened as an answer to my prayers. Here it is:

2006,  February

Since my arrival here at Myrtle Beach, I have gone for walks on the beach just about every day, about three miles. I have gone at high tide, low tide, and everything in between. I have gone early in the morning before most other people are out and I have gone later in the day. I have walked in wind, calm, rain, mist, fog and cold.

Most days as I walked, I searched for seashells….nice ones, big, not broken. There just never seemed to be much down there on the beach. I saw some little ones, many old ones full of holes and many broken pieces. There were always people looking, with their plastic bags at the ready, but they weren’t finding anything either. In fact, I heard lots of complaining about the dearth of treasures to be found.

Most days as I walked and searched, I also prayed. I prayed for God to fix me and make me whole again after my divorce. I prayed for him to manifest himself to me and give me direction for my life.

And as I walked and searched and prayed, I grieved. I grieved my failed marriage; my lost dreams, and my broken family.

One day mid January as I walked and searched and prayed and cried, I did something I had never done before. I did something that I always thought people were hokey for doing. I asked God for a sign that he really heard my prayers and that he loved me. I asked him for a shell, whole and complete; unbroken and bigger than the others. I knew that if I ever found it, that it would be His doing, because what I was asking for I had only seen in shell shops and craft stores, never on the beach.

Well, I didn’t find one that day, or the next day, and not the day after that either. That made me rail all the more. Never mind that I had seen whales by twos and once by threes on three separate occasions, right outside my window; never mind all the other ways He had shown me grace, including the upgrade in my accommodation. I wanted my shell.

Sometime after that, I stopped looking, stopped striving, planning,

stopped asking God for my shell. I relaxed and just enjoyed the beach. I didn’t care that I looked like a crazy woman in a cowboy hat and running shoes. I could see the beauty all around me, and it made me happy. I kind of forgot about my request.

Then, just days before leaving to go back home to the reality of my life in Quebec, and more than a month since asking for it, I found my shell. I wasn’t searching, striving, plotting or planning. I was just walking, being happy and at peace. I was thankful for my first two nights’ sleep without medication in eighteen months. My shell was big, whole, no holes or cracks, and unbroken, just like I asked God to make me. (not that I asked God to make me big!) People had walked right past my shell, not noticing it, but it stood out like a beacon for me. I couldn’t understand how they all missed it. Funny, like sometimes when it is only by standing still that an elusive butterfly will light on your shoulder, you have to be still in your heart to see what God wants to show you.

I experienced joy on that day. True joy.

Sometimes by just letting things take their time and natural course, joy can be found when you least expect it.

The shell sits on a shelf in my office as a reminder that joy is not so terribly elusive and that God answers prayer.

knobbed_whelk_bb_01_l

 

The Art of Saying No

 

A large part of simplifying a life is accomplished not just in reducing your possessions, but also in giving yourself time to enjoy the spaces you’ve created. It is also experiencing joy and contentment, spending time with family and friends while doing the things that make you happy. For the longest time I wondered why I didn’t feel peace in my heart and life. I had pretty much decluttered the house, donated things that needed to be donated, and sold things that needed to be sold.

But there was something that really bothered me about my life. It was my calendar. Yes, my calendar. It was filled with all sorts of good things up to three months in advance. One April day a few years ago, a friend called wanting to set up a time to get our two families together. I looked at my calendar and had to say, “Wow, it looks like we are booked solid until the third Saturday in June! Should I pencil you in?”

That was quite pathetic, that we would have to wait two and a half months to get together. My calendar was filled to the brim with appointments, engagements, family things, professional things, weekends away, visitors, and all the things that make a life. Truth be told, I had put all those things on the schedule because saying ‘no’ would have been harder.

Why would a person say yes to something they don’t particularly want to do? Guilt? Shame? Unease? Difficulty in saying no? Fear of hurting the other person? For the longest time I have been making plans only to cancel them at the last minute when I feel overwhelmed with too much to do, not enough time, or just a discomfort with the request. It would have been easier to just say no in the first place.

I had to realize that my time is valuable; that I am valuable, and that I cannot do justice to an outing or an engagement if I would rather be doing something else.

But what do you do when someone calls with an invitation or a request to speak, volunteer, sit on a committee or some other such thing that will take some of your time? Many of these things are worthy and good, but are they worthy and good for me? Rather than saying an outright yes or no, I have come up with a method that works for me. Now whenever I am asked anything, I respond with,

                                        “Let me get back to you on that.”

And then I have time to go home and decide whether or not this thing will be something I can do or attend, whether it works for my family, and whether or not it is a good fit for me. That’s a lot easier than saying yes now, fretting for a time, and then back pedaling later. However, having said “Let me get back to you on that”, now I have to make sure that I actually do get back to them.

Let’s be purposeful with the things we say yes to, and make sure that they add value to our lives. Choose wisely! And don’t apologize.

How about you? Do you find your schedule too full? Do you wish you had some time to do the things you love rather than doing what other people think you should be doing? The next time you’re asked to do something you’re not sure of, just try saying, “Let me get back to you on that.” and see what happens.

no

Oh, by the way, yesterday I brought a third carload of ‘stuff’ to donate to VeeVee’s Boutique. They will be opening in one week and it will be interesting to see what shows up in the shop.

 

Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!

Location, location, location! That’s the catch phrase for running a business these days, but there is a new one out there:

Simplify, simplify, simplify!

It seems that everywhere you go people are talking about simplifying, downsizing, minimalizing and having more with less. It’s everywhere you look these days: on Facebook, in people’s personal blogs, and in magazines and newspapers.

I had often thought that I couldn’t part with many of my possessions and that I needed all I had to live a comfortable life. If the house is reasonably tidy on any given day, why all the fuss about simplifying?

I am learning that having a simple life is more than just tidying up the house and bringing used clothing and books to the local donation centers.

Since I’ve been into decluttering forever, I thought I had this thing down pat, but it wasn’t until I lived out of a carry on suitcase for ten days and then out of a larger suitcase for three months that I understood just how little we need to live and be comfortable. Last year we rented a condo in Hilton Head for three months. I wondered what to bring; warm clothing, beach things, going out things and all the other articles I thought I couldn’t live without for three months. Needless to say, much of what I brought was never worn or used. I found that I wore the same three or four things every day.

Having lived with much less for that period of time, when we came home, I looked differently at all my possessions and their place in the house. So I started to get rid of what I thought was a lot of ‘stuff’. I kept getting the feeling there was more to this than just ‘stuff’. What about the clutter in my mind? What about the state of my finances? What about the things I eat? How about the people in my life? The time I spend on the phone or the computer?

These are questions I couldn’t really answer a few months ago, but it is becoming clearer now. I actually signed up for a 30 day challenge to be on track and get the things out of my life that don’t bring me joy. I’m 13 days into it now and I’ve been making changes; little ones that don’t upset life too much.

Probably the most important change I’ve made so far is to get off the phone, iPad and computer at 8PM, rather than bringing it to bed with me. And now I don’t keep my iPad beside the bed. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and check my mail, Facebook, Etsy and Fitbit. Can you imagine? Do you do that as well? I’ve found that since I instituted that new habit, I am sleeping much better.

And there’s more.

Over the next while I will share here what I have been doing to simplify my life and home. I am not becoming a minimalist, but I am trying to do my part to have a better life. If you have anything to add to what I’ve been doing, please share in the comments.

declutter

 

Straight From My Heart

Positively No Negativity Challenge

Day 83 of 84

I’ve learned that there is never a perfect time to do a no negativity challenge. There will always be heartaches, sickness, grey sky days and strained relationships. We live in an imperfect world and the thing is to find a certain happiness and hope in our corner of it. That’s why it is called a challenge.

During the four months that I have been trying to get the negativity out, my son was in a car accident, my mother was diagnosed with a life threatening illness, my friend had surgery, my sister-in-law ended up in hospital with a heart attack, and another friend was diagnosed with cancer.

I’ve realized that every day is precious and that there are no guarantees that the person I am angry with today will be here tomorrow. So it is important to me to be at peace with everyone I love. It is especially important to be at peace with myself.

 chrishaggis

 On Day 1  I wrote two reasons why I wanted to do a no negativity challenge:

1. To see whether or not I can really do it and

2. To find out how it will change my life.

Well, the first reason is accomplished. I did it.

And the second reason, so naively and innocently written, has also been accomplished, in ways I could never have imagined. Doing this challenge has indeed changed my life. Here are some of the ways:

   – I am better able to deal with a negative situation now. Rather than stewing in negativity I say a quick prayer and move on to another activity. This is major for me.

   – I’ve learned to put things in perspective. Not all things are earth shattering right now, today. Sometimes things need a little time to gel and to work themselves out.

   – Most of the things I fretted about during the past few months have either been resolved or I have accepted them, proving to me that worry accomplishes absolutely nothing.

   – Dave thinks that I take things more in stride now, whereas before I would react to just about anything as if my horse had died.

   – I’ve become more assertive. Last week we finally did make it to Boston Pizza. We ordered the coveted Cactus Cut Chips, but when the waitress put them on the table they were soggy and dripping in grease. Rather than sitting there and complaining about them, I respectfully returned them with a smile.

   – Getting up at the same time every day and forcing myself to write whether I felt like it or not has made me realize the importance of honoring self-promises. In so doing I have gained confidence.

   – I haven’t been desperate about my weight loss or lack thereof. I’m kinder to myself because I am not obsessing all the time. I enjoy my meals and have been eating good quality food. My weight is great! (and I am fabulous!)

   – Finding joy in my life has been more evident since I started practicing positivity through mindfulness. I am happier more of the time, realizing that the most important things in life are relationships, not things.

   – As I wrote down five things to be grateful for every day I became a more grateful and appreciative person.

   – I am more tolerant of people who are not like me. Well, that means just about everyone, because each of us is unique. So rather than wishing more people were like me, or trying to be more like other people, I am happy to be me.

Today I am grateful:

  1. For a snowy day

  2. For my light therapy lamp

  3. For phones and communication

  4. For solitude (a contradiction to #3)

  5. For God who loves me no matter what