The Fly and the Scope Creep

Today’s post comes to you courtesy of a rather truculent mood. Editing will have me sanding down the sharp corners, vaguing up the specifics, and trying to eke out some sort of lesson from it.

canstockphoto15570783A cumulative song is one that starts out with a simple verse and then each verse is longer than the verse before. A classic example of this is “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” that begins with There was an old lady who swallowed a fly; I don’t know why she swallowed a fly – perhaps she’ll die! The song builds progressively until the final, much longer verse:

There was an old lady who swallowed a cow;
I don’t know how she swallowed a cow!

She swallowed the cow to catch the goat,
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog,
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider;
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her!
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don’t know why she swallowed a fly – Perhaps she’ll die!

There was an old lady who swallowed a horse;

…She died, of course

I enjoyed the macabre ending, because that might actually be the lesson. Really, though, I see it as a metaphor for my life at the moment. After aimlessly meandering through decades of life, I became determined a few years ago to be more deliberate in how I spend my time. This isn’t to say I intended on spending every minute of every day in bliss. It meant that I would make deliberate choices about how I spend my non-household/chore/to-do list/obligation time. I can usually manage this for about a year or so and then something happens. I swallow a fly.

canstockphoto72780678Cut to a year later and I’m a seething ball of resentment who seems to find less joy as each day goes by. What happens? I learned the phrase scope creep from my husband, a computer programmer who has, in the course of his career, worked on corporate projects in an ever-changing environment where there are too many meetings, too many bosses, and too many shiny objects to distract people. The simplest project can be turned into 45 PowerPoints on various aspects requiring more people, resources, and unending bagel-laden confabs (he just told me that they don’t eat bagels anymore – it’s mini-cupcakes). And accountability nowhere to be found.

In my life as an underemployed writer/feckless homemaker, there is no distribution email list to spread the blame. I am the cc and the bcc. If my life becomes an unwieldy mess, I have to put myself on probation. When I suddenly find that my intention to become a better writer is getting sidelined by activities only tangentially related or when my intention to contribute to my community is suddenly me on a committee talking about catering menus, that’s scope creep. My intentions are in sight, but a mile or two back.

It happens slowly. I’m a relatively competent person and a problem-solver. My knee-jerk reaction to any situation is to jump in and try to add value. My jerk reaction is to write a resentful post about it later.

So I’ve hit that magical resentment point where I have to pull back, retract the tentacles, pull the fingers out of one too many pies. While I still make the mistake of saying yes, I can do it, I’m getting much faster at saying, in the words of a friend’s son, ALL DONE NOW.

This year, I’m kicking off the age that the average American woman goes through menopause by rewriting my mission statement (this broad really nows how to throw a party). Mission statements are now part of the corporate self-actualization process along with vision boards and copious amounts of organizers and Post-it Notes. Still, some of these things are useful. If you can’t enunciate why you’re here or what has meaning to canstockphoto15539188you, how do you ensure that you’re spending your time in meaningful ways? Like writing an incoherent sentence that demonstrates the difference between you’re and your.

Eliminating scope creep is a challenge. It means taking back a yes or twenty from other people or projects and giving those yeses to yourself, your projects, your time. And if it sounds a bit self-involved, it’s a damned sight better than putting the things that matter to you aside, and resentfully doing everything else. Nobody wants that person at their meeting.

One Habit of a Slightly Effective Person

At the height of the late 80s and early 90s dudebro corporate culture, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was its epitome. Self-assured and self-congratulatory people were scooping up planners, taking management seminars, and aggressively putting up workplace posters. I was too busy finishing an Army tour and limping through college to be much concerned with organizational effectiveness, even as I waded through bureaucratic inefficiencies on a daily basis. I was born a woman into a poor working class family, so suit ties and fraternal backslapping and BMWs seemed a tad repulsive and Stephen Covey got tossed under the very same bus.

36072Nearly 30 years later, I meet a woman in the course of my writing life. She’s energetic, intent on learning, a good listener, and positive about her life and interactions. My first reaction was irritation. My second was envy. My third – curiosity. What motivates her? How does she operate from such a place of positivity? How does she make others feel welcome and heard? I knew that it was a far distance from where I was currently residing. One of her secrets? That old manual of hair gel, firm handshakes, and relentless optimism – the porn of personal success, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

I have a particularly bad habit of aggressively rejecting ideas until they seep into my self-consciousness, roll around in my head like a tennis ball, bouncing off this idea and that. A few days, months, or years later, I think hmm, I might try that. It drives my husband nuts. He makes a helpful suggestion, I stomp on it, and then six months later I do it and exclaim “I can’t believe I didn’t do that sooner!” It really takes the wind out of his I told you so, because enough time has passed that I’m convinced it was originally my idea. Yeah, still married (shaking my head with disbelief).

It’s been a few years since I recognized that I do this and I’m starting to think I need to work on it. The learning curve in my brain is barely perceptible as a curve because it stretches out over years. Now that I’ve tripped into my 50s, I think I might need to speed up the process a bit. This is aided by the one habit that will, I hope, eventually save my bacon.  I’m always learning and I actively pursue wisdom.

This morning I took the 7 Habits Personal Effectiveness Quotient Assessment. I was as honest as I could be, which is brutally, occasionally unfairly, honest. It’s all in the perception and my self-perception is not kind. Needless to say, I can show up on time, but I couldn’t get anyone else to show up with me. And I’m not being particularly effective in pursuing success as a whole. Maybe I need to finish reading that book.

17349126I just finished reading Daniel Goleman’s Focus: The Hidden Drive of Excellence. It started out well for me, but took a turn into the corporate world that had me reading at light speed, just so I could get to the author’s conclusions. I walked away with a handful of interesting concepts that will likely show up in my life a few years down the road.

This self-improvement bender I’m on is par for my life. I was feeling pretty self-satisfied until life events knocked me for a loop. In order to re-engage, find my way back to the path, I start to research for inspiration. It might be a person, a book, a random thought from four years ago. I do think that slowly, awkwardly, I’m getting wiser, but I’m beginning to realize that the goal is not where it’s at. My joy is in the process. Being there. The process is where we spend most of our time. If it can’t be joyful, we’re dooming ourselves to all the struggle and few of the benefits.

It’s odd to realize my joy comes in recognizing how little I know, how much more there is to learn, and that there is no being done. For years, I viewed this propensity for self-improvement as a result of never feeling like I was enough. Sometimes those early messages embed themselves inside our psyche and we, like moths to the light, spend our lives trying to get close to that warm feeling of perfection, no matter how damaging or dangerous.

13588356After reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, I’ve been thinking a lot about how small I’ve been living. In a heated discussion with my teenager, she said “You’re such a rule follower!” It stung and then I had to think about why that would bother me. We’re often torn between who we are and who we think we should be. The failure to embrace who we are, the struggle to resist it, the efforts we make to counter it – it’s exhausting and sometimes destructive.

There is a point, though, when you say okay, this is who I am, how do I make it work in my favor? What’s the upside? I would tell my little teenage rebel that mama doesn’t need bail money, for starters. It’s a quick turn of the kaleidoscope or, as Stephen Covey would say, a paradigm shift. He says paradigm a lot. It’s a pretty cool, intellectual word, especially if you pronounce it with a silent ‘g’ – and don’t just read it on the page and then drop paradiggem into a conversation. Let’s hear it for the heavy readers out there, hey-o.

I have a rather large stack of books about the meaning of life, how not to suck at life, and why my life could be so much better. This is, I’ve finally realized, my happy place – feeling so down and out that I hit the books in search of inspiration. Even a book that uses the word “synergy”. If the author uses synergistic, though, I’m out.

Clearing the Deck

This morning I got around to writing my last holiday card. Many people will be surprised to receive anything from me. I’m pretty hit-and-miss with correspondence around this time of year. I’m ridiculously insistent on writing personal notes, so sometimes I can’t even get started, since the task seems daunting. This year, though, has been more contemplative in nature. I took the time to do it. I’m ending the year on a good note, so that I can begin the next with an empty slate. No odds and ends left undone.

canstockphoto58759250I wrote up my work plan for 2019 yesterday, but I’ve been churning things over in my brain for the last month. I rearranged my study, got a new rug to spruce things up. Cleaned up my computer and did back ups. I now have a work calendar separate from my duties as mom, spouse, and household maintainer. For weeks, I’ve been listening to motivational books, thinking through my daily routines, writing lists, and basically getting my shit together.

It’s been the undercurrent to an uneven season of grieving the loss of my mother-in-law and holiday rituals. For the last year, our family has been in a holding pattern, where death seemed imminent, but not quite possible. And then it happens and it feels like a surprise. But the surprise is not just in the absence of the person, but the absence of the routine built around the person. Life collapses inward a bit.

The shift in time and energy, being snapped awake by a reminder of impermanence, the new year on the horizon – all these things have propelled me forward. I have to live my days differently. I’ve been practicing a long time, trying on and discarding habits that work or don’t work. I’ve been making my life more about writing than laundry. I’ve reached out and connected with other writers. The time for practice is over. Batter up!

canstockphoto3020214That isn’t to say that I won’t have to make some adjustments to my grand plan. Some things will still be untenable, no matter how good it looks on paper. My schedule and work plan are written in pencil for a reason. I think it’s going to be a slog, to shift into a writing work schedule from just “writing when I feel like it”. Moods tend to be a bad barometer for productivity, so my goal is to work anyway. Hello Excuse. I see you. Now go sit in the corner while I work.

So I prepare for the new year not with a burst of unrealistic goals, but with a sense of determination and an understanding that it will likely suck for awhile – the discomfort, the tension and pull of old habits, the voices in my head that tell me I’m ridiculous or untalented or incapable. Change is difficult, even changes that are simply a shift one way or another. What I do know is that this time next year, I want to have a different story to tell.

What do you want your story to be in 2019?

Some resources that give me a mental boost:

Books

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro

I just started reading this book and had trouble putting it down. Compelling narrative, but also some immediate great lessons about being a writer. I’m going to have to take notes.

This Year I Will…: How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution or Make a Dream Come True  by M.J. Ryan

This isn’t a magic pill, but she draws from a lot of useful sources and I enjoyed listening to the audiobook.

Small Move, Big Change by Caroline Arnold

I’ve recommended this one before. Important because she writes about how to create a workable goal for yourself and what that process entails.

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey

Sometimes I just read things like this for reinforcement of what I already know. Occasionally there’s a tidbit that sticks and I add it to my own personal motivations.

The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

The audiobook is great for those who love classical music, as it breaks each chapter with music. But there were a lot of ideas that I wanted to write down, so I bought the book as well.

Videos

The Power of Vulnerability” by Brené Brown

Hillary Rettig on “Overcoming Procrastination and Perfectionism

Inside the mind of a master procrastinator” by Tim Urban

Podcasts

The Good Life Project with Host Jonathan Fields

The Life Coach School with Host Brooke Castillo

Epiphanies at The Green Study

It’s been a productive week at The Green Study. Every surface is covered with books, files, and random Post-It notes. The white boards have hastily-scrawled notes and lists. After weeks of struggling with insomnia, I stopped struggling and sometimes I was up at 2:30 a.m. writing. It reset my brain to be up at odd times and ideas started pouring out. This post is a reflection of that – a little bit of everything.

It’s the Spirit of Intent

I spent a lot of time doing work for the League of Women Voters this week. Things are stepping up as we get closer to the midterms. I felt a strong desire to focus on these nonpartisan issues, even as I felt the dark cloud of partisan hackery above, preparing to rain down on all our heads.

canstockphoto13457331Some days it seems like too many ethically-challenged, bad people are gaining power and steam. I was lucky enough to come across the feed of writer, A.R. Moxon, who also has a blog. It was this thread that made me think about the spirit of each of the various tribes of people – what direction were they moving in? What future did they think awaited them? Who did they choose to follow? What was the intent, the outcome, the process? Who were they becoming in that process?

And what about the idea of bad people? Is it helpful? Politics is not a useful framework for defining our spirit. It is not Survivor or a team sport – there are no true winners if we cannot find common ground and serve the common good. And this is evident from all tribes – the fierceness, the words and memes meant to cut someone down to size. We are responsible for who we become as individuals. This week, I want to be like the women in my LWV chapter who have served the cause of voting rights for decades – dedicated, steadfast, deliberate, singular in purpose and thoughtful in words.

We get to choose which spirit we follow and embody.

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Book Talk

canstockphoto13243997I was contacted by JKS Communications, publicists who work with a writer I admire. They’d seen the blog and wondered if they could send me some of the books they were representing, in case I’d like to talk about them here.  This never happened to me before, but let’s just say I did a giddy little dance around the house. I believe at one point I picked up a book, stared at it lovingly, and whirled about belting out “the hills are alive…with books”. When I babbled excitedly to my husband and daughter, they both glanced warily about the study, as precarious stacks of lit magazines and books were everywhere.

I told the representative that I don’t write reviews. I just write about what I read. I waited for a response. And she was perfectly lovely about it. This is all to say that I’m going to read a couple of books and likely will tell you about them, but for the sake of integrity, felt compelled to be up front about it. Plus, I’m still a little giddy.

34462968One book that I didn’t get gratis, was by a blogger who I have been following for a couple of years. Dave Astor blogs at Dave Astor on Literature and I’ve enjoyed his wonderful posts, rambling through literary connections and themes. He has a nifty little tome called Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time: The Book Lover’s Guide to Literary Trivia. My only complaint was that each chapter left me wanting more. Maybe next volume, Dave.

My One Thing

There was a Billy Crystal movie in 1991 called City Slickers. In a scene between Curly, a crusty old cowboy and Crystal’s character, Mitch, he talks about the meaning of life.

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [holds up one finger] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: That’s what you have to find out.

I was 24 at the time so I sort of, kind of, understood, but not really. The characters in the movie were on the cusp of being middle-aged. As I move from the middle to just straight-up aged, I’ve been struggling with a sense of purpose. It feels like it’s been this way always – likely an innate part of the human condition. The challenge is getting out of my own way, cutting through the imperfect perfectionism and procrastination. I have awkwardly begun to do what I want to do.

canstockphoto43567403Dirty dishes sat on the counter, my daughter ran out of jeans, my family foraged for their own meals, and the cats scratched their own bellies. I was writing. I wrote and wrote and wrote, consequences be damned. I submitted a short story to a lit mag and didn’t throw up from anxiety. I came up with a plan for November’s National Novel Writing Month. This time I’m writing a big sociopolitical novel that I’m very excited about. The world did not stop spinning on its axis because I ignored my chores. My child did not need bail money. My husband was able to find things. Nothing happened except for one thing.

Life got easier. All the things that I’d been wrestling with, from feeling sort of useless as a human to getting enough exercise to my exhaustion from heavy social interaction. It all faded away to the background. I had finally brought the right thing into focus. My one thing. I brushed away the fleeting thought that I’d wasted a lot of time getting here. If you’re a writer, I rationalized, it’s all research and material, no matter what you’ve been doing.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo next month and want a writing buddy, you can find me on the site at MMJayne.

Gratitude

Thank you to the Writers’ Studio, a group of lovely and talented people I joined in September. Having that space to read, write, listen, and talk about writing has encouraged me to embrace my one thing.

Thanks also to Amy, who has bravely embarked on a nonfiction collaboration with me. I love that our connection has found new ways to expand and grow.

And last, but definitely not least, thank you for reading, subscribing, or commenting. As I canstockphoto31378283close in on this blog’s seventh anniversary, I marvel at how much the online world has changed since I began, but that I still enjoy writing here. With so many things grabbing our attention, it becomes harder to find community and connections. Anything we do to improve that, from connecting with bloggers on the other side of the planet to giving each other an encouraging Like or Hell, Yeah in the comments – these things do make a difference.

When You Only Have So Many Words and None of Them are Adequate

The Green Study is taking a break until December 1, 2017.

canstockphoto5847421Last year, I went to a lecture where journalist and novelist Anna Quindlen spoke about her writing practices and career. One of the things she said was that while she was working on a project, she limited how much time she spent answering emails and engaging others. “I only have so many words.” I’ve thought a lot about that phrase, wondering if there really is a limit to my creative reservoir.

I’ve made a habit over the last five years of posting personal essays. Most of the time I was circumspect, able to write them at a distance and not when they were raw. Lately, though, I’ve been feeling tapped out personally, too enraged politically, and unable to rein in my emotions. It’s probably time to stop doing that for a bit. Maybe I was just scraping away the layers until I hit the gooey core, but the gooey core is here and it’s messy, disorienting, and raw.

I’ve written frequently about depression over the years, but there are so many different kinds. It might have been turning 50, or watching my child become who she is supposed to be – in contrast to my own paralysis, or just the flip of a neural/hormonal switch, but this year I’ve felt a drag on my daily life, this weight pressing slightly more each day. I’ve become habituated to repressing emotions, repackaging them in a logical manner, presenting them as if I have my shit together. All the while, I feel a sense of grief and rage and disorientation just burbling beneath the surface.

We do this – we rearrange and rationalize and give 45 degree corners to those emotions that make us uncomfortable. We turn them inward and that rage, sadness, bitterness morphs into a low-level depression, until a phase becomes a lifestyle. Creative people put rawness into their art and maybe that shores them up, makes it tolerable.

canstockphoto5423745I used to believe that I was a creative person, but I’ve spent too much energy trying to look put together. I’ve spent a lot of time being responsible, keeping myself controlled, and rational. I’m living in a world where I’m not allowing room for my own messiness, surrounded by a culture that will look at sheer lunacy and say well, that’s different.

canstockphoto21530517It has hit me that art requires messiness and rawness and vulnerability, because art requires an elemental sort of truth and you can’t land on it by keeping your shit together all the time. As I said to a friend yesterday, I feel like a complete and utter fraud. She’d read somewhere that feeling like a fraud means you’re getting somewhere, because you are operating outside of your comfort zone. And that means growth.

It’s been a surprise in midlife to realize that those issues in the first decade or so of life follow a person. They have reverberations through the following decades of your story. Many of us spend our entire lives trying to resist, change, or rewrite that story, but it’s our core story. Messages for better or for ill burrow inside our brains and many of them are just plain wrong. But they’ve left their mark and they influence our behavior and perceptions. Until we are deliberate in challenging those messages that do us harm, they will rear their ugly heads over and over. And we’re stuck.

canstockphoto1074433I’ve been stuck for a long time, but things are uncoiling. My emotions have told my mind that it can just fuck right off. It’s “Feeling Time”. If you’re relatively smart, your rationalizing skills are likely top-notch. You can intellectualize the hell out of any morass of emotion, produce a white paper and a TED talk, and not feel a damned thing. It’s the feeling part that’s messy, that makes you feel like an unhinged nutter. It’s not comfortable, but it’s necessary.

I see it as analogous to what is happening in our country right now. It’s messy. It’s extremely uncomfortable for many of us. There’s fear and anger and anxiety. My optimistic self says that it’s evolution – all the cultural and social shifts are happening in a relatively short period of time. Resistance to those changes is normal and natural, but temporary for all but a diminishing minority. This is the ebb and flow of growth.

People are in a hurry to make nice. To smooth out the wrinkles, repress dissent, legislate away the angry voices rising up, to make it look like our patchwork quilt of a country isn’t coming apart at the seams. It is and it isn’t. Some things are holding strong. Some people are emerging as real heroes and some of us are more enlightened than we have ever been before. I believe there is hope to be found, but it does mean turning away from the headlines and looking below the fold.

canstockphoto40402861Personally, I am dissolving into a bit of a mess.  I’ve begun to disintegrate mid-conversation with friends and feelings are rising in me that no amount of editing can rearrange. I know it’s a good thing in theory, but for now, it feels like absolute shit. It’s not “normal” for me when normal was keeping things squared away. It’s not normal for me to keep manically humming Moby songs like some deranged hipster. I don’t want to talk out loud about it. I don’t want to repackage it for the consumption of others.

Sometimes in a world where everyone is saying everything for the benefit of an audience, there’s no time to tend to our inner lives. If we’re lucky and I think that I am, our inner voice becomes so loud and rancorous as to demand our attention. My inner voice has hopped up on a table, stripped off its clothes, and insisted on dancing Gangnam Style. It feels damned embarrassing and uncensored and not intended for public viewing.

I like to wrap up a post with some rationale, some message that says to a reader Hey, she’s not a headcase. She has her shit together. But why lie? I don’t have it together. I might, but I don’t right now.  See you in December.

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Room for Joy

As I wrote in my last post, I’m making room for my present life by letting go of much of the past. It’s a slow process, because handling each of items I’ve surrounded myself with, from clothes to books to mementos, means I’m also dealing with the emotions attached to them.

My focus is driven by a few ideas that have stuck with me.

What We Leave Behind

As you get older, more people you know and more people they know, die. Estates have to be processed, possessions sorted and distributed. For years, I’ve heard about the nightmare that the process becomes – from bickering siblings to overwhelming hoarding and undue burdens passed to the next generation.

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We don’t have one of these, but we have an impressive number of flashlights.

My husband and I are the products of working class families. There are no heirlooms or antiques that have been trundled along from generation to generation. So everything we’d leave behind would be something with which our daughter would have to deal. I like my kid and I’d prefer her resentment of me to end sometime before the grave and not be something that would linger for years after – unlike that voice in her head that sounds remarkably like me.

Sometimes that divvying up of a loved one’s possessions helps to process grief, but more often than not, it ends up in a storage garage someplace to be dealt with by a reality TV show or a relative who didn’t much care for you when you were alive and has even less feeling for your stuff.

There are things that I do want to leave her. A journal I started writing soon after she was born – all about her development milestones and lessons that I might have missed passing along to her in daily life. Pictures – digitized, sorted, clearly labelled and easily transported (via USB stick or DVD). My wedding ring – the band that I had to stop wearing after I got pregnant – a symbol of the love her parents shared, but of so little monetary value as to put all this wedding hyperbole into perspective.

These are, coincidentally, the same things I’d grab in case of a fire. Maybe. If the family and cats are out already.

Burning Bridges, Shredding Ties, Letting Go

I’ve been slowly sorting through photographs. Scanning, labeling and saving them takes a lot of time. There are services that do this. They’re often pricey and my guess is that you’d give them all your pictures, since it is so convenient. I’ve decided to take the harder route, because it’s my thing. I figure that if I have to look at and decide if I’m going to spend 5 minutes scanning them, I am likely to eliminate more.

canstockphoto22009649Easiest to eliminate are scenery photos. There are always better quality pictures on the internet. A pedestrian camera, combined with my weak photography skills meant that many are fuzzy. Now when I travel, I tend to buy postcards. Those are usually professional photos if I need to remind myself where I’ve been.

Old flames. I have some couple pictures from the past, hesitating to let them go for the sake of my memory. There’s one with the very first person I was engaged to. We were young and so damned perky. But I freaked over too many hints from him, involving hordes of children and white picket fences. I wasn’t ready. But our romance was sweet and we both have our own families now. Those photos make me smile, so I’ll scan them in.

canstockphoto8098470There are pictures from a serious relationship where the dude was a drunk and abusive and I hadn’t quite cottoned on to the fact that I might have daddy issues. Most of the pictures are of us at bars, parties and beer fests. Might have been a hint. I don’t get a good feeling from those pictures. He wasn’t as attractive as I remembered and each picture has a story. Oh, that was the night he punched a wall and broke his hand. Look here, on a beach in the Mediterranean, where he refused to speak to me for half the trip because of a jealous rage. Why would I give five more minutes of my life, scanning in my shit history? Shredded.

In some ways, it feels like I’m sanitizing my past, but I’ve already learned the lessons. I don’t need a reminder that I made bad choices. It just feels like bad juju to hold onto that stuff, even in digital form. I’m not good at forgiving myself for mistakes, so it feels ritualistic – all that shredding and destroying of things that remind me.

Joy, or a Facsimile Thereof

The book that helped kick off this decluttering bender was Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. She’s a little extreme for me. Since I’m someone who prefers deadpan delivery over hyperbole, the word “joy” seems over the top. Still, if I translated into my language “muted pleasure” or “benign contentment”, it’s a concept that works. We should derive pleasure out of the things we possess. Not surface satisfaction, but a real acknowledgement that we want this particular thing in our lives and if it’s not exactly pleasure, then it must serve a current, useful purpose.

canstockphoto9987395The environment in my study is now a little uncomfortable. Everywhere there are books I like, things I’m currently working on and items that bring me aesthetic pleasure. The psychological weight of stuff – the bad memories, the shoulds, these things no longer deliver a mental flick every time I turn around. There is space physically and mentally, that I did not have before. I am loathe to refill it and am determined to keep reminding myself I have everything I need. Maybe the joy is en route and I just need to sit in this awkward room and listen for its arrival. Now that I’ve got the space.