Thursday, June 29, 2006

My Plague Years

I was out and about today and observed this solitary pigeon on the window ledge of one of the older downtown buildings. I had been doing a lot of thinking earlier in the week and this pigeon seemed to pretty much sum up how I've been feeling lately - out on a ledge overlooking if not a long drop, certainly a great expanse stretching out before me.

Between thoughts about my workplace, changes in Don's work, the defeat I have felt regarding my weight, and the feeling of being overwhelmed by material stuff, I began to see that there was a connection through much of this. I now see it as the weight of circumstances and my path to re-invention. Ghandi said, "My life is my message." When I look at the chaos of my workspace and the excess that has attached itself to my body and the excess of possessions, I see the pattern rising up and staring at me like a laughing, manical clown. If my life is my message then I have serious housecleaning to do. I must declutter, focus on the internal process that keeps me so disordered, and with the discoveries, translate the actions into change.

I've been asking God for a long time to show me what He means for me to be doing to help others. Then Francine came to visit again this week. As we tore through dresser drawers and closets, madly decluttering, tossing, and shipping off to Good Will, I finally started to get it. How could I ever make my life my message if I kept myself buried under excess weight, excess possessions, and a growing mountain of "hope to do" projects? No wonder I've read so many books. It was easier to run away than to meet the challenges head on. Somewhere between Mother Teresa who gave so richly, one life at a time, and Bill Gates who gives so richly on a macro level, there must be a spot for me. I won't be able to see it until the mountains of "stuff" are removed from my life.

This week was a good start. I had 16 drawers packed with stuff and by the time we were finished trawling through it all, I had emptied 8 drawers and lightened the load in the rest. My closet has been reduced by HALF. I had clothes in there I wore 40!!! years ago. What a joy to open my closet and see space. We re-arranged the bedroom and now I have my own private sitting spot. I promised myself two weeks ago that I would not eat anything white - no potatoes, no processed rice, no pasta, no white processed bread. I've lost five pounds.

But perhaps the best thing that happened this week was discovering the connection the weight of all these circumstances had with my inability to produce my art on a regular basis. I am the keeper of family pictures going back to the late 19th century. Most of these picture are in storage boxes and bags and aren't in much order. Many of them are unidentified and therefore can't be put in any sort of context with family members. And since my mother can't speak anymore, any hope of identifying these people died three years ago. But now the pictures have all been moved to one place and I have determined that the only way to move forward in a meaningful way, is to get the pictures in albums. This will also mean getting rid of any images that, with the passage of time, have become anonymous shadows. Finally this barrier will be gone.

Carl Rogers said (or maybe it was Maslow) All I need is someone to love, meaningful work, and hope for the future. I have all of that and more. Family and friends equals love, I have meaningful work to do on my body, my home and that mountain of pictures. And with this I have hope that in the future I will hear more clearly what I can do for others because clearly, God wants me to take care of myself right now.


trailbee said...

Thought I would take a quickie peek before I turn in. What I got was a real eyeful! I tend to think this is just the tip of your iceberg. It's nice Francine was there; you might not have done all that sorting, cleaning, re-arranging and discarding. I realize you don't have much time, but have you looked at your personal Mission Statement lately? Is it time to revise it? To re-assess all those early statements? It sort of solidifies your goals a bit. You have had one very successful week and should be quite pleased with yourself.

Beth said...

Its amazing but I have been dwelling on the same things lately,,too much excess. I woke up at 4 this morning thinking about how much "excess" I am going to get rid of in the next month. I too have drawers full of stuff and I am going to start tossing alot of it.
I have finally figured that in order to lose weight I have to pretty much eat like a rabbit. LOL!
Have a great Friday Annie!

paris parfait said...

Beautiful, thoughtful post which really hit home today. I, too have recently been wanting to get out from under the weight of so many possessions - am in a rage to sell extra antique things and keep only what I love. The same with life - a lot of spring-cleaning going on; some health issues I must deal with and must get more organized with projects, etc. Your post reminds me of potential for joy - of not being weighted down by possessions, by worries and woes. Thank you, my friend.

mikim said...

Oh, Annie this is a wondeful post. It touches on many of the same things that are going on in my life. This was such inspiration to start my day with. Thank you, for this thoughtful post.

the Caitlinator said...

This is so wonderful! Congratulations on the weight loss - stick with it!

Star said...

Thanks for this very personal post. I have been going down this path for awhile myself. I have gotten rid of lot of excess in our house over the past year and it is a liberating feeling (plus others can make better use of it--we're Goodwill donators also).

On the weight front, however, I've gone from being very underweight back to being quite overweight. This is the first time I've really gained a bunch at a time, but I was so thin I didn't recognize myself. With the return of the weight has come some recognition again, but only on the outside; I am still struggling to find me on the inside.

So, go slow with the weight loss, Annie. I hope to join you in that effort soon.

Tammy said...

I'm so happy for you Annie :) :) I have always been the unclutter freak. I save very little and love organization. LOL I think it's the virgo/libra thing, or my parents. I'm cheering for you!!!


AnnieElf said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Becca said...

Annie, you may not realize it, but you are so inspiring! To read someome else put so beautifully to words the very things that have been on my mind for some time is very affirming. My husband and I inherited his family home, and while I love many of the memories all these things carry with them, after 30 years I am literally and figuratively drowning in them! I think at my age, it's time to "lighten the load" in all respects, and I'm glad to have company in this mission. Instead of dropping like a stone from that ledge we're perched on, we can fly like the free spirits we are, unencumbered by all that "stuff" that clutters our living space and our minds. I am so grateful for your post today!

Colorsonmymind said...

I am so proud of you....what insight, clarity and hope.

Your movement is to be admired. The results you have garnered so quickly both emotionally and physically make it clear that this is what God wants from you.

Keep going

Holly Stinnett said...

You amaze me. Your writing is so profound and every sentence has so much emotion and is so beautifully written. Gosh, I can completely relate to the clutter problem, as I think many of us can. I often say, "I feel like things are closing in on me." I am a collector! A collector of anything artful so that includes papers more papers and more papers, supplies, containers, more containers, more supplies, books, books and more books, every magazine subscription known to woman, anything doggie related, anything handmade, dolls (not as much anymore, but I used to collect Barbies then went to work for Mattel) - I still have 200 of them and many others. The list goes on and on... I love shabby chic so love textiles and vintage aprons, tea towels, dishes... just writing this seems too much. Not to mention I love fashion and shoes and hang bags. I am the perfect consumer and am affected by advertising! And when I was in Italy, I tried to be "good" but came back with quite a few lovely things all the way justifying that I may not ever get the chance to have them again.

I am very organized and love tossing things and being in control and organizing my things and my life, but I do feel it's just "too much!" I wish I could turn the "off" button on. And most recently, my last job assignment ended so I haven't been working regularly, I was offered another "dream job" and accepted, signed the paper work, had the drug test, all that stuff and while away in Italy, they emailed me and told me they had conducted a reorg and my position had been eliminated. So after getting in "job mode" and thinking I'd have money coming in and doing some excess spending, NO JOB. After all the sobbing, I'm back to my glass half-full-self and know the right thing will happen for me.

So now that I've ramble-typed, I just wanted to say how lovely you are and how you've inspired me on this bird chirpy morning (as I sit wide awake at 6:30am due to jetlag).

You sound so strong and I can tell you are a woman that will do what she puts her mind to. You're very good to cut all the "white" stuff out of your diet. Boy oh boy am I happy to do that after all the bread in Italy - I'm so sick of bread - lol!

Love your blog and love hearing from you on mine. You are always so supportive.

Your blog-pal,

ms*robyn said...

I think one of the hardest things to do is de-clutter. I have been doing it since the beginning of the year and my home is still cluttered. not as bad, mind you, but I still have way too much stuff.

ms*robyn said...

oh and I believe that 'just' having a cup of tea with someone and listening, can be your life path. good luck this week with the excess stuff xoxo

Cate said...

Love this post, Annie! Congrats on your accomplishments!

trailbee said...

Re-reading this post and all the comments gave brought on some insight. Yes, we have clutter, and yes, we keep adding to it, but I am beginning to think that this habit should not be considered a fault, but an affirmation of who we are, and the absolutely tremendous brain-power at work in each of us. The majority of your blogger friends, Anne, are artistic, no matter what that form takes, some of us are not, but everyone collects. Most collections are tangible, that's why they take up so much space, and cannot be internalized, like music, or memorized, like poetry, or a novel (Fahreneit 351). It is who and what we are, and makes us unique. We ought to celebrate, note denigrate, these joys. Yes, we all have to learn to maybe remove one or two items once a year, but the fact that we were financially able to think, see, appreciate and then buy, should make us aware of how wonderful our brains and, ultimately, our talents really are.
Having moved within the last 10 years, I am still reeling from the shock of having to say good-bye to many things I thought were indispensable to my being. But I find I was wrong. I'm still me, a late-maturing adult, full of curiosity, always reaching for that elusiveness that makes up my world. Whatever our health issues are, each of us is the perfect specimen of personhood, and through blogging we have found that we are not alone in our little obsessions and addictions, i.e. books, CDs, pictures, hand-crafts, this tremendous need to create-something, ANYTHING. This is our world. Hallelujah! Thanks for bringing this entire subject out in the open, Anne. On the lighter(?) side: you're only going to give up white chocolate, right?

AnnieElf said...

Thanks Tammy. One of the pieces of clothing I got rid of was my going away dress from my first marriage. I don't understand why I kept it for so long. It's practically vintage now as I bought it in 1969 but I'll let someone else discover it and enjoy it now. Another ensemble was a long plaid skirt and fitted jacket. I LOVED wearing that suit but if I lost all the weight I'd like to lose, I still would not be able to wear it. The intervening years have changed my body too much. I didn't think I would ever get to this point and I feel so much lighter now. I'm going to enjoy digging into the next pile of stuff.

AnnieElf said...

Dearest B - Thank you for your heart-felt comment. In a way, I feel better about all the stuff. Still don't want the burden anymore BUT hey, I'm an artist! and that 'splains it all. LOL. Oh and yes, only white chocolate. Not so common so easier to overlook and not miss. The dark brown stuff though? Ummm, yum.

AnnieElf said...

From my dear friend, Phaa -

Annie, you're doing so well with the decluttering and photo triage. I was so very happy to be able to help ...Call me back anytime I can help. Apart from the actual work we did, which was Most Meaningful, it was the discussions, especially those at the java joint, that really helped all around. The connections between excess food, excess posessions, excess job when it's no longer meaningful, excess money going out ... all these finally clarified into one unified big picture. Together we found the secret path to solution.

Autrice DelDrago said...

The best way I have found to declutter... is to have to pack all your stuff and move across the country... suddenly, you have no choice but to sort through everything, just to make it all fit on a moving van! You realize the things you really do cherish, and can set them apart from the things you could do without. Plus, your family and friends get lots of 'new' stuff!

Anyway, good luck on your Mission. I'm still working on decluttering my house (all those darn moving boxes filled with 'must haves' are still, to this day, sitting in the Dungeon!)


Tongue in Cheek Antiques said...

I am proud of you and your honest sharing it is a good witness to me! Thank you and joyous light journey ahead!