In Pursuit of Joy

“Anxiety arises from not being able to see the whole picture. If you feel anxious, but are not sure why, try putting your things in order.” ~ Marie Konde

Folks, I did it.

I bought Marie Konde’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (completely free, thanks to Johnson County Public Library and the Overdrive app) and I’m only five years late to the party. Rhetorically speaking, I’m not late at all since Konde has risen to Netflix feature status and hit the big time with her own series. Like some of you, Konmarie – as her popular method for tidying up is known – just hasn’t been on my radar until now. Being as I’ve declared this #clean2019 and the time for good energy and overall wellness, it seems only fitting to consider hopping on the Kontrain.

I must first say it’s too bad Konmarie and I weren’t acquainted in 2018 when Alena and I (and by default, our respective husbands, Chad and Guthrey, had to resolve the issue of Mom’s estate. The time came to clean and we were flabbergasted at the sheer amount of stuff left in Mom’s home. It took six months and a near nervous breakdown for me to be able to disassemble the place we spent the last 17 years of life making memories. That said, there was one enormous reward when we completed the task: closure. Not to mention the absence of dread/anxiety associated with the whole endeavor.

The truth is cleaning out the homeplace, as hard as it was to endure, left me with a sense of mental space and clarity. In the summer weeks that followed, I managed to tidy most of my own rooms as well…except for my bedroom. My bedroom and closet need serious help. Listening to the narrator (don’t you just adore audiobooks?!) today describe Konde’s methods in chapters 1-3 while cleaning my main rooms led me to the following conclusions of why Konmarie might be for a time such as this:

Reasons Tidying Up Could be the Real OG

  1. A cluttered, messy space gives me anxiety. Honestly, dirt and messes give my anxiety, anxiety. I love my home and I long for it to be a sanctuary, far from the maddening crowd. That said, I’m tired of leaving my glasses off because I don’t want to see my surroundings.
  2. Organizing things does not spark joy in me. Organizing things is Alena’s department…just ask her how many times she’s spent post-holiday meal sorting, stacking, and discarding my Tupperware. The focus of Konmarie is keeping only what brings you joy. If I discard a lot, there won’t be near as much left to organize.
  3. I’m not good at plugging along. I work best on deadlines and tackling large jobs in a fell swoop of effort. I will not do a little bit every day. I will forget there is even a little to do.
  4. I must have an approach/system to stay focused. Part of the reason I enjoy this blog is both the writing and the sharing make me accountable. I may not succeed if left to my own devices.

In short, I felt more in touch with my surroundings while cleaning today and listening to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Instead of rushing through the chores with a stressed mindset, I took my time and actually found joy in the process. While some take issue with Konde’s approach of thanking the items/house, etc., I will simply replace that with thanking God, from whom all blessings flow. After all, it is humbling to think I have so many things in my possession I don’t even know what I own. My prayer is tidying will lessen anxiety and spark joy in 2019 and beyond.

Wellness Wednesday

I’ve only been to the gym once this year, y’all. My daughter just left to go back to college on Monday, and I tried to spend all of the time I could with her. However, I’ve managed to lose 4 pounds of my holiday weight by going back to work and focusing on portion control and taking a loose approach to meal planning (cleaning up my intake). On Monday, I started a new ab/squat challenge and I planned on meeting my exercise/movement goals 5 days this week until I purchased some fish (thinking I’d help my husband and son on the healthy meal train) and things went downhill. I don’t know if it was the seafood or a bug, but I woke up Tuesday morning and I couldn’t drink my coffee; in the interest of not being too specific, my body decided it was time to purge. This kind of purge is never pleasant, but it happens naturally to remove toxins from our bodies and keep us well. As a result, I’m a little behind on my fitness goals, but my overall wellness goals for 2019 are progressing. What exactly is wellness and how can we get there?

According to nationalwellness.org, wellness is a “conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.” Wellness is a “holistic, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being”…it is “positive and affirming.” Disclaimer: I’ve always been a big picture person. Thus, I feel it is important for us to pause a moment here and distinguish between fitness and wellness. While fitness – the condition of being physically fit and healthy – is an important and worthwhile goal – it isn’t the big picture. Wellness is all-encompassing – it consists of six areas: the body, the mind, the emotions, the spirit, your work, and your interactions with others. Keep in mind, toxicity can apply to any of these six dimensions. In order to be holistically well, we must start with our hearts.

The path to self-improvement (aka overall happiness and feeling good about life) begins with an undivided heart. After all, it is not what goes into a man (or woman) that defiles him or her, but what comes out. Folks, it all starts with the heart and a desire to be better. Many of us need serious heart help in order to move forward and be “well”. This is a nuanced and complicated issue; too large, in fact, for one blog post. Therefore, we’ll lay a foundation here…one that I hope will lead us forward into 2019 and beyond. Here is the bottom line – for 2019, let’s purge. Let us purge everything that is not beneficial to being well. If it looks like anger, wrath, offense, unforgiveness, mockery, malice, resentment, jealousy, evil speaking etc. get rid of it. These are the things that come out of our hearts that are toxic to us and those around us.

This is the time of year that folks often engage in fasts and detoxes. I’m no expert on these topics, but I do know any type of cleansing completed in moderation is good for the soul. If the heart is the source of our spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical wellness, we can’t be well in any area of our lives with a sick heart. What makes the heart sick? It stands to reason we cannot disregard the importance of our words. Speaking from personal experience, there is a direct correlation between our words (including the things we tweet or post on social media) and how we feel. I have often said or done the wrong thing in a moment of “venting” and frustration and brought myself (and sadly, others) down. I have ruined what was an otherwise good day by saying or posting the wrong thing…something of no profit that was not beneficial. Sometimes this falls under the guise of humor; even here (especially here?) we must ask ourselves if it is bringing harm to others. I am working on this in 2019! What could we accomplish and who might we encourage if we counted our complaints like we count our carbs?

I have yet to view Marie Kondo on Netflix or read her book, but I have begun the process of cleaning up my heart and my environment in a quest for overall wellness. Let’s borrow one of her principles for 2019: let’s take a good look at our “box” – both inside and out. Start with the inside and remove everything that does not bring joy. Start clean in 2019.

Book #1 of 2019

“what if I ended up split down the middle when the train divided, living two lives, each diverging from the other all the time, growing further and further apart from the me I should have become?”

I’m a sucker for books set in London and the English country side. Honestly, the setting does much to create the plot of this subtle, nuanced tale. The characters and intrigue do not disappoint, nor do the literary skills of my new favorite author, Ruth Ware. My only criticism is the attempted plot twist at the end. Anyway, read it.

I just deleted the Magpie Murders off my TBR – the characters seemed slightly flat in the sample. So, book number two is The Witch Elm by Tana French.

Happy winter reading!

2019 is already a bust maybe

Guys, honestly. Alena and I make the perfect foil. We’re like peanut butter and jelly, coffee and donuts, rain and a good book. Btw, if you’re on word press and follow her, please follow me and marvel at how there’s my very cool sister, and then there’s me. Thanks for the shout out, Sis 😋

So, my sister started a blog and it’s really, really good.  Seriously, click the link and read This Coffee Life.  She did all the leg work and research on how to make a blog successful, made a fb page for it, the whole nine.  Meanwhile, I’m sitting over here thinking about how much effort that must take and shaking my head ‘no’ as I drink my second cup of coffee.

She’s really good at fleshing things out, it must be the Language Arts teacher in her, and I’m just not good at trying… well, anything.  I know to have a successful blog that I’m supposed to blog more than once every 4 months and I need to really try to develop content, but we all know that effort has never been my strong suit.  Honestly?  Nothing is my strong suit.  Laziness, maybe.  Laziness is probably what I’m best at…

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Fresh Eyes

My daughter bought me a Coffee Warmer for Christmas and it was a gift that I would have never considered for myself, in spite of my obvious coffee affinity. Amazon touts it as “your new favorite coffee accessory”; I’m not one to argue with Amazon. Guys, this is seriously one of the best presents I received. With a new puppy, I am constantly getting up and down to open the back door, grabbing a chew toy, or pausing for a few moments to play with Ellie Mae. Though I enjoy almost everything coffee – from iced French Vanilla to old fashioned Maxwell House Bunn – the one thing I don’t care for is room temperature coffee. Anyone who appreciates hot beverages of any kind will agree with this statement: lukewarm is no good.

Merriam Webster defines lukewarm as tepid or lacking conviction. The Cambridge English Dictionary deems the term “not enthusiastic or interested.” It is here I must digress a moment and explain something; those of you following my posts know I was impressed to start this blog to honor the legacy my mother left behind. Mom was actually a great writer, but I didn’t know this until the age of Facebook and social media. She would always gush over my writings and Alena’s…she gushed over most things we did. She was enthusiastic and proud when it came to her children and our accomplishments. Anyway, with the dawn of facebook, Alena, Tommy, and I saw a new facet of our mother: not only was she an amazing encourager, but she was also a gifted writer.

The point here is not to say how perfect Mom was; she had a tendency not to confront situations and to internalize her frustrations. In spite of that, the one word I would never use in any depiction of Brenda K. is lukewarm. I can never recall my mother being lukewarm. Even in our less than desirable moments, Mom was always all “look at those purple flowers!” Or, “did you see the plum tree in the neighbor’s yard?” And, “I smelled honeysuckles on my walk this morning!” She so appreciated the life laid out before her and the many blessings adorning her day – even in the worst times, even in her final weeks battling cancer. Her appreciation was genuine; it was not garnered to get likes and comments on social media.

This is the part where I wish I could tell you I’m like my mother and I inherited this natural tendency not to be apathetic (spoiler alert: I didn’t). I’ve always been more of an old soul; in fact, my childhood pretty much ended around the age of 10. People do this thing when they’re hurt and unhappy – they build walls and those walls block out pain, but they also block out joy. The best cure for being lukewarm is to start seeing the world through someone else’s eyes who isn’t. Walk with them, talk with them – like I did with Mom. Thankfully, God sent me a spouse who is not a lukewarm person. He daily points things out to me to appreciate, much like Mom used to do.

When dealing with grief and depression, it isn’t easy to be joyful. However, we don’t want to be numbered among those who are lacking due to a lukewarm spirit. Apathy is toxic and it’s something we must acknowledge and confront. Even in my moments of stress and anxiety – moments like today when I get torn up over things like taxes – I’m growing. Lukewarm is no good – it’s better to be one extreme or the other. Work on finding balance and a Zen place. Lessons from Mom: do what you love, take a walk, spend time with a furry friend, and you will renew your enthusiasm and view the world through a set of fresh eyes.