‘Ah, life grows lovely where you are.’
Well it’s officially November, so I guess I can FINALLY say this without someone breaking their neck from whipping their head around at me: Happy Fall (and Happy Holidays!) That’s right, I’m calling it and all of you guys can finally leave me alone in my excitement because as of September 22nd IT IS FALL! CAN I PUT UP MY CHRISTMAS TREE NOW?! You guys all know, it’s not a secret, I suffer from severe PDHE. I’ve had it since I was little–Public Display of Holiday Enthusiasm–and a common side effect is launching into seasonal festivities before they’re actually due. Forget this “Official First Day of Season” crap. The calendar I measure all things in life by is the one that Hobby Lobby sends out to their set-up crew employees for those specialty front aisles erected three months before the holiday they’re promoting. In fact, I got so excited for the Christmas aisles going up the day after Halloween last year, that I was with the set-up employees as they put them up: “Um, ma’am, we’re not quite ready yet. You might want to come back tomorrow when we’re finished.” NO, I WANT TO GET MY TINSEL NOW!
“What’s your name tag say? Mary? Yeah thanks, Mary, but no. Let me help! Pass me that box of tinsel. OH MY GOD, Mary! THESE REINDEER PILLOWS MAKE MY HEART SING! What other colors do you have them in?!”
The fact is, one day is simply not enough to celebrate my enthusiasm for holidays. Remember, I’m a self-developing minimalist. Just kidding – sort of, I mean I’m still trying! Minimalist genes don’t run in my family so it’s taking SERIOUS EFFORT (and arm-twisting persuasion by my better half,) and PDHE certainly doesn’t jive well with KonMari’s “does it spark joy?” approach because, in case you haven’t noticed, ALL of the holiday things bring me great joy. Every single last one. My life motto: MORE TINSEL PLEASE!!!! (Marie Kondo can whittle down my collection of holiday knick-knacks when she pries them from my cold, dead hands.)
I find this time of year gets a little tricky though with PDHE. There’s a split crowd, and the ones fighting for the preservation of “the season it still is” (also known as Grinches, Witches, etc.) aren’t always so understanding of premature ejaculation of the holiday spirit. Listen, we can’t help it – it’s a DISEASE, a true mental condition. I once knew a girl (who shall not be named to protect her identity) who posted a photo of a Christmas tree on November 1st with the caption “Yay! It’s that time of year!,” and her social media community paid to have her killed. Okay, I made that up. But I thought I should be transparent here and tell you and that late August, when I post a picture of me on the back porch barefoot with my glass of wine on my Instagram to appease the “Too Early!” crowd, just know that my caption “Still loving summer!” is code for “I’ve already put in 6 hours of research on ways to decorate my front porch with autumn leaves and pumpkins, and there’s a fall wreath already on my front door… and I more than likely already have scarf on AT THIS VERY SECOND.” Okay? Good, glad we’ve got that settled here and now.
Another problem with PDHE is that we’re not really into the subtle decorating thing – by we, I mean I… I AM NOT into subtle decorating. I want our Christmas tree placed in the front window so I (and everyone else) can see it from the road. I want my front door to have a Christmas wreath along with my snowmen on the porch showing how many Christmas adoring people we have in our family! I see your simple white-pumpkin-against-white-walls scene that subtly whispers “faaaaaaallll” (Does it really though?) and I raise you some decorating vomit of a giant “I love fall most of all” sign next to my cornucopia of glittered pumpkins and brand new fall wreath that I just redid and placed on my front door for this very occasion. Why whisper “Fall” when you can scream it? Listen, I don’t do surface relationships well. I want intimacy, and this year will be my 24th year with Fall. “Subtly” isn’t how I want to celebrate; we’re past that. Go ahead, November. You can touch my boobs. (No, Kathryn. I haven’t had a single ounce of tequila.)
Here’s my excuse, are you ready? Brace yourself, this may come to a shock to some of you… Georgia weather is super disheveled. The only thing we really have to launch us into festive displays of enthusiasm are store aisles and the release of merchandise that leaves no room for questioning the calendar. Seriously, last Christmas the weather was nearly in the 80’s but just the week before it was in the low 40’s so can you REALLY blame me? Who needs the sight of the ground hog’s shadow to mark the beginning of spring when there are 200 packages of pink sugar-coated Peeps that told me so in Target three weeks ago? Our hay rides, our pumpkin patches, our beloved Christmas tree farms? Why, we find them in the aisles of Hobby Lobby, in the end caps of Target..
These establishments are holiday churches in a way, and walking through the garland-strung aisles of fall splendor in any of these stores sets off a rush that puts me in a full-flung pleasurable state – at last I am complete. These places are Messengers of God to a PDHE living in the mess of Georgia weather, and because he’s a gracious giver, he grants us access early–pine cone turkeys in September and snow-dusted wreaths in November. Christmas tree little debbie cakes? They leave me with great joy. Football season and colorful falling leaves? Great joy. Heck, even those tacky decorations you put on your vehicle to make it look like Rudolph? Great joy, great joy, great joy.
So, forgive me now as I prematurely break forth into Seasonal Festivities Mode. From here to forth, you may see me in a scarf with my boots on hot days, throwing around the word “cozy” far more times than is deemed necessary and throwing candy corn at my dog because THOSE THINGS ARE JUST PLAIN DISGUSTING (but still in great joy.) “Tone it down” isn’t a phrase you’ll hear around here until the last of Hobby Lobby and Target’s Christmas aisles are picked over and cleared out. It’s time to dial it up–because, after all, it’s Fall.
Happy November, you guys. You’re welcome.
"When you live or work outside of your heart, there will always be a break-up, break-down, or both."
This is for the introverts, the extroverts, the ambiverts, and "all the verts in between" who crave a little alone time.
It wasn’t until I began to simplify my life and create more time for reading on the back porch, long writing sessions, and other quiet, thoughtful things that I realized I was an introvert. I've always said, "oh, I'm such a hermit" and "I'm more about my solitude than anything else." And although I love connecting with other humans, I need them all to go away for a little while every day, too. Some of you aren't like me, I know that. Some of you enjoy being around crowds of people, you need to be in groups of friends to feel complete but although introverts may need more alone time or room to create a happy heart, extroverts need some heart soothing, too.
Instead of working to the point of burn-out, take time each day to be still, quiet and thoughtful.
Yesterday after I posted the image above with the caption, "I adore spending time with people I love but the only way I can really show up for them, engage, and connect is by spending time alone. You too?" I got way more feedback on this than I could've ever imagined. My inbox FLOODED with things like.. "This is definitely me, but I have such a hard time taking time for myself! I usually feel guilty." "Long walks and patio sitting are so rejuvenating for me, I wish I had more time to do things like this!" "It's nice to be able to do things like this at the end of the day to unwind."
Guilt-free Introverting: a roadmap to alone time
Explore the guilt.
When I feel bad or guilty about something I write it down. I write all my thoughts and feelings on paper so I can really examine what's going on instead of letting my mind get carried away. That's why you guys get a lot of these "I've been thinking a lot about THIS lately" posts.
Write it down and ask the following questions, "How can I feel guilty for taking care of myself?" "Why don't I trust people enough to let them know what I truly need rather than just using the one liner, 'it's fine.' when truly IT'S NOT FINE." "If a friend needed alone time, would I fault them for it or support them?"
Leave your guilt on paper and do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Remember that you aren't just serving yourself, but everyone around you.
Tell people what you need.
"I need some time to be alone." doesn't mean "I don’t want to spend time with you." It means, "I want to take care of myself so I can enjoy the time we spend together." Don't apologize for asking for what you need. Let people know if you need some time to yourself or would rather stay home while they go out. Ask what fuels them too. Let's support each other in living our best lives even if we don't always understand or take care in the same way.
Simplicity soothes the heart of an introvert in the following ways:
• Simplicity creates time for long walks into solitude.
• Simplicity gives you permission to create boundaries.
• Simplicity provides more clarity which results in less distraction.
• Simplicity invites you to pay attention to what matters most, and let the rest go.
• Simplicity contributes to a good night of sleep.
• Simplicity allows you to be present and connect with loved ones.
• Simplicity gives you the awareness to listen to what your body, heart, and soul need to thrive.
• Simplicity reminds you that you don’t need to prove anything anymore. You are enough.
Simplicity is the way back to love. By simplifying your life, and eliminating things that don’t matter, you will find your way back to people you love, a life you love, and work you love.
Be alone together.
Even though my partner is an extrovert (with a few introvert/hermitish tendencies,) when we spend time together, I have space to process thoughts and we can be alone together. You can hang out with someone you love and read or do other things alone together. If you have young children, think about activities that will keep them engaged while you take a little time for yourself even if you are all in the same room.
Identify your sanctuaries.
Choose a few places where you love to be alone and recharge and identify a few emergency getaway spots, too. For instance, you may love to sit on the back porch in the same ways that I do and read the afternoon away but if you only have a few minutes, a closet or bathroom may be the perfect place for a few deep breaths. Your sanctuary may not be a location, but an activity like knitting, writing, or running. These are sacred places to go and fill your heart, even if it's not an actual place.
"I will not say yes when my heart says no."
Don’t wait until you are completely peopled out to take time to refuel. Take a little time each day to walk, write, read or whatever you need to build a reserve of calm and comfort. Then you can show all the way up for the people you love. There's no time for guilt about who we are and what we need to best love up our people.
Say no. Find support. Build a reserve.
Living in the desert summer with all of the humidity it brings makes me so grateful that fall weather is coming. Fall is my favorite season because it feels like a breath of fresh air after being in the 100-degree heat. I love pulling out my scarves and jackets and getting ready for the changing colors of the leaves and all things pumpkin.
Stockpiling and freezing homemade chili and soups, pumpkin patches, my fall wardrobe, campfires, and football. Sitting inside all bundled up watching the leaves blowing from the trees in the front yard, the smell of raking dry leaves – even the smell of leaves burning as the neighbors all work hard to clear their yards. Morning air and walks on the trail in the morning or runs at the park in the evening… I’m craving fall.
Around this time of year gratitude is a no-brainer. After all, this is the season of “thankfulness.” We see it on our throw pillows on our couches and on the decorations upon decorations that flood the stores and have since the 4th of July. It’s on wreaths, and flags, and all of the AD campaigns between now and Christmas. But what is gratefulness REALLY about? Is it a season? Is it a holiday? OR is it meant to be found in our everyday lives?
“The power of thankfulness is found in perspective… everyday tasks and to-do’s are reminders of how blessed we truly are.”
I used to dread planning meals, grocery shopping, and then cooking just to have to clean up the mess immediately following. The prep took forever and then the meal was over in a flash with the subsequent work to still be done. Over time, I have changed my mind a bit on that. There’s something to be said about a sink filled with soapy water – everyone laughs when I say that I wash dishes by hand simply because it’s therapeutic for me. I’ve grown to love cooking and the one I do it with, not just merely tolerate it. That simple shift in my life opened the door for me to view cooking as a creative opportunity to feed myself and the ones I love while also being able to explore something I ended up enjoying. Meals started to provide a real sense of accomplishment, and the better I have gotten, the more I have discovered that I enjoy it. I enjoy it to the point that I turn up some music, open the door and let the dogs come and go as they please from the kitchen. That little ritual has set this time apart, and I’ve begun to look forward to it even more.
To say that I have embraced driving would be an understatement (especially now that I never get to drive unless I’m the only one in my vehicle or maybe just whenever Kate isn’t.) I now love to drive – it helps me clear my head. It’s my own little personal joy – it’s truly the best time to catch up with others in my life, as well. Downloading our days to one another driving down the road is my favorite past time – not only that but telling different stories of our childhoods, too. Some of the most meaningful conversations.. and I swear that I have learned more about my partner during a conversation on 4-wheels than I’ve learned anywhere else. I will start asking questions and the conversation goes somewhere beautiful or important, and we never would have gotten there another way. The car is often where we connect, process, and catch one another up to speed on our days. Or we roll down the windows and let the music play, and that’s just as good.
I have officially accepted my writing as a fact of my life – when I write my nerves begin to settle, my mind eases, and I often leave with answers to questions that I didn’t know my mind was asking. Often times in the beginning, it feels like more of a burden than a blessing – that is until I get started and it gives back things I didn’t know that I needed. My sanctuary, my place of calm in the storm. To the point that when I get all caught up in my head (like I was earlier this week) – I’m overloaded and shutting down, Kate will say, “just write it all down and if you need some insight, I’ll read it.” I can’t tell you how many time’s I’ve pulled over in my truck to jot a quick thought down – to save it for something that I wanted to write about later… What I gain from writing is exponentially more than what I put into it. Some swear by therapy. Me? I’ll stick to this.
Laundry has and always will be a hard one for me. It seems as though I am washing enough clothing for a small nation most of the time… when only 2 people live in our home. And yet in the mounds is a clear blessing. The fact that we have such an abundance is enough to stop any griping. Beyond that, there’s something about the smell of fresh laundry, the feeling of accomplishment I get at the sight of an empty laundry basket, and the warmth of sheets fresh from the dryer. These are small things, but the daily recognition makes them less small. They become a way of seeing the world, a way of acknowledging all of life with thanks and eyes to see the positive, often overlooked things. It’s always there. It just sometimes gets a bit buried under the sand and powder covered blue jeans and t-shirts, or the sheets that I insist on washing once a week, every week.
I bet you have your own internal list of little daily grievances. Instead, maybe find the blessing hidden in the chore. Or try looking at a current trial with fresh eyes. Sometimes a change of perspective is all that it takes to let gratitude run free in every area of our already existing lives. Once that happens, nothing ever looks the same again: Everything starts looking like a thank-you.
So.. I finished my 2017 Book Bucket List (Whoops!) But now I have something new to share..
These are my recommended books, and I could not be more excited to finally have an entire page devoted to this list.
I have read and continue to read countless books on all the topics which are near and dear to this blog: minimalist, relationships, wellness, motherhood, and adoption/fostering.
Here is the list, broken down by categories (as listed above)
Relationships: (Including Failing Ones!)
Wellness: (Recipes, too!)
Motherhood: (Also Foster/Adopt)
The Lucky Few (Yes, this has a faith angle with it) (I even got Kate on board to read this one!)
I’m about to also start the Cathy Glass series – which I recently found on Amazon. It’s a foster mom who gives her REAL LIFE encounters through different children who’ve been through her home. They all look super good so I’ll let you know how that goes… here’s a couple of those if you want to check those out, too!
We have been programmed since birth to say, “less is more,” and we’ve said those same three words for our entire lives to the point that their impact is nearly meaningless. But in the beautiful, simple setting that I’m desperately trying to make of my everyday life with words that have accompanied it so perfectly, it has all started to make sense.
Our lives are filled with clutter. And by clutter, I don’t just mean all of the junk that fills our homes and desks at work, but also the junk that fills our minds. We are consumed by things, thoughts and excess clutter.
And lately, I have felt so much peace and there is something so beautiful, so magical and so freeing about simplicity and lack of things, lack of clutter. When it’s our time to leave this Earth, we will take nothing physical with us to the grave (wait, except maybe my favorite sweater, can we make sure that goes with me?!) Every physical possession will be left behind, ultimately making these things meaningless.
It’s been about 6 months since I first began purging my life and I am getting rid of physical things, reducing all things and learning to silence the mind clutter.
The more we take away, the better it becomes….
I have recently started thinking about all of the ways that more is not better; not in the past, not now, and probably not ever.
We live in a world that says more is always better. The bigger house. The more expensive vehicle. Larger portions at restaurants. More work for more money. Longer workouts. More “stuff.” Everything. All of it. More, more, and more will yield better, faster, happier, stronger, accomplished. But after more always comes the “now what?” And then sure enough, the cycle repeats itself.
And I think this is what life is really about. It’s not about glitz, glam or things. It’s about a random smile, a heart that melts and a general happy feeling.
I have never found such joy, peace, and happiness in my life like the joy, peace, and happiness found from the most basic and simple things..
Like the way my dog is still in his clumsy puppy stage and stumbles throughout the yard every afternoon when I get in from work. Or a home cooked meal and the way it leaves you satisfied, more satisfied that I could ever find in a restaurant – completion. Or sitting on our porch at sunset or even sunrise when the whole world seems calm.
By nature, I’m fairly basic (and yes, I’ve been this way long before “basic” was a cool and trendy word), but I do get wrapped up in more, more, more like everyone else. I’m so ready for a quieter, calmer, and more basic life vs. everything these past several years have felt like.
So wherever you are, please just be there.
Sometimes it’s okay to “just say no.” PSA: No, this isn’t about drug and alcohol abuse.
It’s important to say no so we can create more time to engage in what matters most. Even though we may feel bad or worried about saying no, it’s still important, because we need more time than we think.
Kate and I have found ourselves being faced with this more and more here lately. The same conversations conisting of, “can we just stay home?” “I would really like to just hermit tonight, if that’s okay with you.” “Is it okay if tonight we just stay in, watch a good movie on Netflix and be still?”
“When EVERYTHING is important, nothing is.”
Not only do we need time to do the usual and necessary things, but we also need time to notice things and to process thoughts and emotions. We need time to move through the world, present and undistracted. We need time to just be still. We need time to remember who we are with all of the other changes taking place in our lives. There’s always going to be something changing – that’s inevitable, it’s all about how you choose to respond to it and we can better serve the world when we have time to respond thoughtfully instead of reacting mindlessly.
We need time to take care of our bodies, and time to listen to our hearts. We need time to do a brain dump, time to exhale on all of life’s musts, and we deserve time to engage in the things that are on our heart lists, not only the things on our to-do lists. Things like taking a long walk, calling someone who makes you laugh, laying around and putting your feet up, and doing mindless things you actually enjoy. It takes time to take care of our bodies, brains, hearts and souls, and if we don’t take that time, we can’t take care of anyone else, at least not for very long. Continuing to serve everyone but ourselves will leave us completely depleted and there will be consequences.
“I will not say yes when my heart says no.”
When all of your free time and space is dedicated to keeping up, catching up, regrouping and making ends meet, it’s not free time. If you want free time – real free time, or if you crave 8 whole hours of sleep, a proper lunch break, or at least 24 hours away from your email, you are going to have to say no. A lot.
Saying no is not an easy trade to make, especially for kind generous souls, for people pleasers, and for people who are used to saying yes to everything.
Yes, I’ll be at the baseball game.
Yes, I’ll respond to that e-mail right this very second.
Yes, I’ll meet you for coffee.
Yes, you can pick my brain.
Yes, I’ll meet you for dinner and drinks after work.
Yes, I’ll make that thing for that party.
Yes, I’ll respond to every notification on my phone.
The list goes on, and on and on.
We’ve all said yes, when we wanted to say no. Whether we say it out of guilt, for fear of missing out, or out of habit, it’s important to note that saying yes, when your heart says no is a disservice not only to you, but to everyone you say yes to. If your heart says no, it will fight the yes all the way through. If you’re not in something whole-heartedly, it’s not a committment. You won’t be excited to contribute, you won’t give your best, and you may end up resenting the commitment or the person who asked you to commit in the first place.
(I know there are exceptions to the never say yes when your heart says no rule. My heart doesn’t want to go to work every morning when my alarm goes off at 5AM, but I do go.)
“I don’t say no because I’m so busy, I say no because I don’t want to be so busy.”
If you struggle to protect your time, use one or more of these 5 simple ways to help you say no.
1. Figure out what matters to you by asking questions. It helps to ask the questions out loud to yourself.
“Does this really matter to me?”
“What all is this going to effect tomorrow?”
“Is this contributing to the life I want, to my health, or to the way I want to treat people?”
“Am I holding on for the right reasons?”
Ask it about your stuff, about how you feel, about your work, about a grudge, about invitations, requests, everything. ASK. Your heart knows things and it will help you make room for what matters most. Missing drinks tonight will not effect my status with my friends just because I just need a night alone. Taking a night to just eat dinner at home and read my book on the porch while drinking wine and worrying about the laundry in the morning WILL NOT cause my whole world to shutdown – I will still function in the same light
2. Keep it short.
Author Anne Lamott says, “No is a complete sentence.” Expand when you need to, but still keep it short. In just a few sentences, you can say no with gratitude. “No thank you. I appreciate you thinking of me, but I have another commitment” is better than a long explanation about how busy and sorry you are. Saying things like, “let me think about it” is often a delay tactic. When you know it’s a no, say no. If you want to say yes, but the timing is bad, suggest another time and be specific. Be grateful for the invitation, respectful of the time and courage it may have taken someone to ask, and graceful and loving when you decline.
3. Turn FOMO to JOMO. (Fear of Missing out to Joy of Missing out)
Instead of feeling like you are missing out on something else, honor the commitments you make to yourself. When you decline an invitation, find joy in how you decide to spend your time instead of wondering what you missed out on. Feel joy that you have a choice, and joy because you are protecting what matters most.
4. Say “Hell yeah!”
Derek Sivers’ approach to feeling like you are doing too much is this: “Those of you who often over-commit or feel too scattered may appreciate a new philosophy I’m trying: If I’m not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then say no. If you’re not looking forward to something, QUESTION YOURSELF, “is it absolutely necessary?”
Meaning: When deciding whether to commit to something, if I feel anything less than, “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely!” – then my answer is no. When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!” We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.
5. Do your work first.
If the first thing you do in the morning is check email, you may never have a chance to decide what’s most important to you. Put your oxygen mask on first or take a run around the block. Take a shower, do your makeup, eat your breakfast, THEN CHECK YOUR E-MAIL.
“If you don’t have time to do the things that matter, stop doing the things that don’t.”