Making Space

It’s December 30.  My house is a disaster.  I have three baskets of laundry waiting to be folded.  It’s 11 am. I’m in my jammies and I just ate a cookie for my morning snack.  I’m in the time warp of Winter Holidays. You know the one. It doesn’t matter what you celebrate because as I talk with friends Jewish, Muslim and Christian, it’s all the same from roughly December 23-January 1.  

One of my piles. There are several around the house.

There is a hint of “shoulds” as you look at your kitchen sink, but you know somehow the dishes will take care of themselves and children will get fed.  There are intentions of organizing, cleaning, baking or just simply showering and getting dressed before noon. Instead, you’ve spent the morning scrolling Facebook and playing a game with your kids or finishing up a wonderful book as you pour your second cup of coffee.  Expectations are wonderfully low. Kids don’t really have to bathe or get up in the morning for school. Someone in the house may need to work, but you’re not quite sure what time and trust that they’ll figure it out on their own.  

Gifts are randomly piled in corners waiting to be put away.  But I haven’t gotten around to it because I haven’t cleared out the old stuff to make room for the new.  

As I linger in my comfy bear jammies, I see I’m no different than my overstuffed closet.  I need to make room for the new. As we say farewell to 2019, take a few moments in your jammies and your chaotic house to clear some space.  Look back on what this last year brought you and write down these 4 questions.  

What are you most grateful for in 2019?  

What has been dragging you down?

What is no longer serving you?

How will you gently let it go?  

As you ask yourself these questions, notice the way your body responds to each one.  Our bodies know before our brains. What sensations come up? Heat? Cold? Rapid heart?  Quicker breath? Tingling or itching somewhere? What is your body asking you to release and surrender to the past?  

Know that you don’t need to have the most eloquent or meaningful answer to the question.  Maybe you just want to let go of hitting the snooze button every morning. Maybe you want to let go of anger you’ve been holding on to for way too long.  There are no wrong answers.  

Ritualize it.  A small slip of paper with a few words and a match will do.  Or, write it with chalk on a rock and throw it into the nearest body of water you can find: a creek, a pond or a bucket.  If you live near a river, lake or ocean, go for it. But there is no need to make this complicated or you simply won’t do it.  Heck, a scrap of paper and a trash can work just fine.  

I know my house will eventually get cleaned up.  Laundry will be folded. Gifts will be put away. Dishes will make their way to the dishwasher.  I will shower before noon again soon enough. And as I linger in my comfy jammies, I take a few moments to reflect on the last year and clear out the cobwebs to welcome the new.  

In what ways will you make space for the new?  

You Can

I signed up for an online writing course in February. It was fun and challenging and it awakened lost possibilities. As part of the course, it was recommended I pick up The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

This book is changing my life in ways I never expected.

The book is a 12 week class with exercises and practices to tap into your creativity. Part of the practice is what she calls Morning Pages. Every morning, write three pages of stream of consciousness writing. Every morning. She advises not reading these pages. Simply write them. Even if all you are writing is “I don’t know what to write” for three pages.

When I read this, I thought – yeah, that’s not gonna happen – I have three kids to get fed and dressed and out the door. I’m not giving up sleep. But, I’ll give it my best go.

Before I knew it, I had filled up a notebook. When I went to buy a new one, this jumped out at me from the shelf at the 99cent store.

Stickers added by my kids.

When I read it, I just thought: no I can’t. I have three kids and a mortgage. I cannot simply do whatever I want. It’s a lovely thought and a good sturdy notebook, but no, I can’t do whatever I want.

I’ve filled more pages every day. I’ve filled it with the mundane thoughts of my daily life. I’ve filled it with my dreams.

I have faithfully written three pages every day for 6 weeks now. Most days it happens first thing in the morning, whether I wake before the kids or not. I pour my first cup and coffee and get to writing at the kitchen table if my kids are still in bed. I go to another room if they are awake.

A couple weeks ago, I went to meet with a new studio owner nearby. She loved what I had to offer and hired me on the spot. I’m planning my first workshop there for June. She asked me what else I envisioned for my work. I told her about my vision for a retreat in the Dominican Republic.

“What’s holding you back?” she asked.

“Fear.” What if no one wants to sign up or invest that kind of money to spend a week with me on retreat? What if I’m not good enough? What if I lose money? What if I spend all this time and energy planning it and it’s a total failure? The what if gremlins were so loud, I couldn’t hear anything else.

“But, what is stopping you?” she asked again.

“Me.”

I really can do whatever I want.

I decided I’m doing it. I’m so thrilled and excited to be offering this retreat. I was in the Dominican Republic this last January and fell in love with the people and place. Sometimes I go on vacation and think, well that was lovely. Other times, I go to a new place and all I can think of is how to get back and bring people I care about. Dominican Republic quickly became that place.

Here’s the thing: this is not just true for me. It is true for you too.

You really can do whatever you want.

Maybe you want to come on retreat with me to the Dominican Republic? (Yes, that is a shameless pitch.) Maybe you want to travel through Europe, Iceland or Asia. Maybe travel is not on your agenda but your lifelong dream has been to be a dancer, a singer, a circus acrobat.

What dreams and ideas come to mind that you immediately poo-poo. Before the thought can even make it to your pen or your lips, you are already dismissing it.

You know the one. It’s dangerous. It’s a little scary.

Write it down. Say it outloud. Whisper it at first if you need to like it’s a big secret. Then, let it get louder. And louder. Shout that dream when you are home alone. Then maybe when your partner or kids are home. Build up. Dream it. There’s no harm in dreaming. Let yourself indulge in the dream.

Then, ask yourself – what’s keeping you from it? What is holding you back?

I suspect it will be fear, yourself and the what if gremlins.

Talk to the gremlins and ask them…

What if I pursued my biggest, craziest dream? What if I took a middle aged ballet class? I picked up the ukulele? What if I traveled the world for fun?

What if I simply wrote my own permission slip?

Who else is going to give you permission to live your life other than you?