I think I’m in control. Until I come out of a store having bought something that was not remotely on my mind when I went in.
What did I spend $40 on at Marshalls?
I was returning things I’d bought a week earlier and grabbed the receipt. A $40 item jumped out at me: Gourmet Housewares followed by a string of UPC numbers that provided no further clue as to what it was. What could I have spent $40 on at Marshalls? And, more surprisingly, why couldn’t I remember what it was?
I tried recalling the Gourmet Housewares section I’d shopped in, and what items I’d considered. I did a mental walk-through of my house, trying to envision each room, striving to recall if there was something I’d needed—or wanted—for that room. Blank.
I could identify the other four, modestly-priced items on the receipt; how could I not remember the most expensive thing?
I swiveled in my chair, scanning my office space. Then I saw it.
You’d think if I said I wanted to do something, I’d do it, right? Eat less? Exercise more? Sounds easy, and yet, when I take it head-on, it often doesn’t work.
Self-control, self-motivation, self-discipline all depend on one thing: the self. Problem is, in my experience of life, I often don’t have a single, dominating self operating. Different selves want different things, and the self that wants to exercise is met with resistance by a self that, well, doesn’t.
The self that doesn’t want to exercise doesn’t want to mind the self that does.
“You’re not going to tell me what to do,” it huffs, even though the you resisting is also the me wanting. It gets confusing.
Because I have multiple experiences in life where my own mind doesn’t agree with itself, I’ve come up with ways to overcome competing internal characters. My trick-trash for uncluttering is one of them.
The Power of 10 is another one; a mental tool to help me navigate inner conflicts.
The Power of 10 defines success as 10-minutes of something: weeding, walking, meditating. Whatever I’m resisting doing, I only have to do it for 10-minutes.
As long as I do it for 10-minutes, I feel good, because I’ve achieved what I set out to achieve.
Funny thing is, a lot of times I do more than 10-minutes. Willingly. Because the hardest part of getting going is, well, getting going; overcoming the inertia that keeps me from starting. Overcoming my own resistance. Once the engine gets going, keeping it going takes less effort.
But if after 10 minutes I want to stop, I can and will. With a feeling of satisfied accomplishment.
It would be great to be that person who does what they say they want to do, without resistance. But I’m not. I was struggling to get back to blogging. I got this post written by telling myself I only had to write for 10 minutes today.
My fifth 10-minute timer just went off. Time to review, tag, and post.
The Power of 10.
1,000 pieces. That’s what the puzzle box said. I bought it. I’d try this puzzle thing.
Last time I was around a puzzle was 2-years ago. I was at a birthday party and the puzzle was 2/3rd complete. The remaining pieces were nicely laid out, face up. Several folks were standing over the puzzle, chatting, while scanning and trying to fit pieces in. I hit 3-clean picks in a row: snap, snap, snap. It was satisfying. “I’m a natural at this,” I thought.
I figured I’d buy a puzzle and try it at home. Lots of folks like puzzles. Maybe I’m one of them.
A thousand-piece puzzle is not a good place to start, if you aren’t sure you love puzzles.
I’ve written two blog posts inspired by a place I dubbed mindfulness intersection. It was a stretch of road I drove regularly, giving me plenty of opportunities to practice mindfulness.
My first lesson was about my rage at another car cutting in front of me.
My second lesson had me being the cutter, at a different, but similar, intersection.
My third lesson—I’ve stopped saying final because life keeps surprising me—I tell here.
This lesson captures the essence of Don Miguel Ruiz’s second agreement—don’t take anything personally—in his book, The Four Agreements.
“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
This third lesson, surprisingly, happened while I was walking. Having had a disagreement with Bubba, I was outside, stomping up the street, trying to clear my head and make sense of what had just happened.
There’s a reason people use the same log-on name and password on every friggin’ site on the internet; they do it because every friggin’ site requires we establish an account in order to interact with them beyond looking at their offerings through the internet-window.
You want to come in and browse? Set up an account, create a user name and unique password, give us your personal data, and then—and only then—will we let you in to see our wares.
Imagine if that happened at retail stores? They would have collapsed sooner than their apparent, imminent collapse.
I have 340 web sites that required me to set up an account with them in order to engage. Really? Did all 340 of them really need me to set up an account? I don’t even know if some of the accounts I have exist anymore. I’m pretty sure my MySpace account is defunct, but who knows, it could still be sitting there.
I asked a friend once why she didn’t shop at Costco. “Because when I do, I buy stuff I don’t need.”
With another friend, I joked that it was hard to get out of Costco for under $100. “Under $100?” he quipped. “More like $200!”
I’m of two minds about Costco; I’m drawn toward it, and have resistance to it.
There was my misfortune a few years ago with Costco’s red, medium sticker on my sweater, worn at a memorial service; no, it wasn’t Costco’s fault, but it remains a well-seared-in, unpleasant memory.
Costco is to blame, though, for being a place with too much tempting stuff; I’ve admitted to having a love/hate affair with stuff; Costco takes those feelings and gins ‘em up. So, yeah, I have some Costco…baggage.
But there are also things I love about Costco; things that keep my membership alive and active.
Here are 5 things I really like about Costco. They’re my Costco Greatest Hits.
Have you ever thought you’d squeezed every morsel of learning out of some lesson, only to have it say, wait! there’s more!
My Road Rage story was like that. I dubbed the location where I learned to reduce my road rage, mindfulness intersection. After blogging about it I thought, ok, that intersection is dry; I’ve learned all there is.
But life continued. And I realized so much depends on perspective. When I first wrote about taming my road rage, I wrote about it from my perspective: the one pissed off that another car cut in front of me.
My second lesson had me being the cutter.
I love moments when I see my perspective shift on something. I tilt my psychological head and, bam! things are suddenly different.
I was driving to the hospital to see mom. The Vermont hills, peppered with farms and cows, rolled before me, small towns and communities rising up and fading away. The green scenery swaddled me in its splendor; an occasional tree hinted at autumn.
I rounded a turn. There on the hill before me was a display of a half-dozen windmills.
You know that road rage emotion? That righteous anger that feels good because you know the other driver is an absolute, f’ing moron behind the wheel?
Yeah. That road rage.
Ever hear the quote, “holding grudges is like taking poison and hoping it kills the other person”?
Replace “grudges” with “anger” and…same truth.
“My mom will be alive for at least six more days. Now five.”
A countdown had begun in my head.
They were unsettling thoughts, this countdown to…what? A renewed chance at life? Or death. I wasn’t thinking these thoughts; they—and the associated fear—were just…there. It didn’t matter that I didn’t want them.
My 88-year-old mom landed in the hospital multiple times this year, starting in March, when my 94-year-old father got her to the ER just in time. By summer, after multiple hospital trips, doctor visits and medical tests, they had her scheduled for heart-valve surgery in June; told her she needed a new hip; and informed her she had a slow-growing cancer. It was a layer cake of issues.
When Bubba and I met, we each had years of experience loading dishwashers. The thing is, we didn’t load them the same way. And since each of us was sure “our” way was the “right” way, we had to deal with some relationship hiccups as we figured things out.
Routine aspects of life give me regular opportunities to “figure things out.” That usually means trying to understand the inner voices that chirp away when, for instance, I see Bubba do something my Inner Judge insists is just not right.
Maybe he’s putting forks into the dishwasher tines-down.
“The tines won’t get properly washed!” The Judge says, absolute in her declaration.
The swallows have returned to the neighborhood. We watch them through our large, plate glass windows as they scope out the houses for the perfect spots to build their nests. They like the eaves of our house: high up; well-protected.
I love swallows.
Imagine you’ve lived in the same place for 20-years. It’s a familiar place; easy to take for granted. With time, your appreciation of its uniqueness fades a bit. Habits and familiarity lead you to stick with places you know, and places you don’t know remain unknown.
But your town starts to bore you; you want to spice things up. “I’ll go someplace else. Someplace new!” you decide. Someplace different from home. You know that by doing that you’ll get new perspectives; see new things; meet new people.
Some things I take for granted. Knowing how to cook is one of them. I don’t mean just being able to follow a recipe, but knowing how to ferret through the fridge and create something out of nothing. “Let’s see what the refrigerator has for dinner tonight.”
I read that a lot of people don’t know how to cook. I can’t imagine what that would be like. A grocery store would seem overwhelming, especially the produce department, with all those weird-shaped fruits and vegetables. I get intimidated when a new vegetable shows up I’ve never seen, but at least it’s surrounded by familiar friends.
I call my insurance company and a robotic voice answers, telling me to press 1 for English. The voice returns and tells me to enter my account number. I punch 9 digits. Brief silence and then robotic voice tells me to press 2 for sales; 3 for billing; 4 for…I press 3, listen to a few rings, and get another robot, who again wants my account number. I re-enter the same 9 digits. Another brief silence and then I’m advised that the “next available representative will take my call” and “this call may be recorded for training purposes.”
Some sites give me an idea how long I can expect to wait. Most sites have some looped-music that plays to keep me distracted, although some leave me sitting in silence.
This happens with almost every vendor I call.
Bubba and I had a party to go to across town. It was the wet of winter; rains and winds swirled outside and the sun had long set on the horizon. The idea of driving that night was unappealing; 30 minutes to get there in the dark on wet and very windy roads that risked flooding, plus the drive back after monitoring our drinking. It was a holiday party, requiring us to get dressed up in fancy attire.
As we mulled over the upcoming event the day was closing in on, we could feel resistance to the idea of going. The couch, with its warm and fluffy blanket, beckoned. Several unwatched movies lay on the table. We had hot chocolate and crème de menthe to warm up the evening.
My mom, a child of the depression and WWII, is the queen of re-purposing things and making stuff last. “Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without” was a command she took to heart, proudly demonstrating it to us kids as we grew up.
She made my apron out of re-purposed, retired curtains. My potholders are from sewing project remnants; the interior heat-resistance an old blanket that had seen better days.
Socks with holes? Mom darns them. Jars and food containers others might throw out? Mom finds new uses for them.
Very few things are ever “single use” in her household.
When she needed a dress for a fancy party—at a time when the budget was slim and had to be creatively stretched—she pulled together some fabric, designed a dress to Continue reading “Why and How I Play Mind Tricks”
The call comes from my veterinarian at 4, saying my cat’s 5:30 appointment has to be changed. The vet needs to leave and there is no one who can fill her spot. Will Friday at 5:30 work?
There is nothing on my calendar Friday at 5:30. But that doesn’t matter. The Judge does not like that I’m being asked to rearrange my schedule; something “could” come up. Someone is at fault that my appointment must be changed, and since I properly booked the appointment, the fault must lie outside of me.
Maybe it was my upcoming birthday, or the arrival of fall, or simply an icky sense that I spent too much time on Facebook and the quality of my life was affected. I don’t know. I do know that, with a spontaneity that surprised me, I decided to take a Sabbatical from Facebook; an extended break.
Once I decided I wanted to do it, I wasn’t entirely sure how to do it.
I’ve been active enough on Facebook that friends consider it a way of reaching me and sharing things. I get messages from friends, invites to events, and news.
I thought, what happens if I just don’t show up? If I stop reading my news feed? Stop “liking” friends’ posts? Stop posting things and sharing things? Simply, quietly, disappear?
On one hand, I worried no one would notice.
On the other hand, I worried people would expect a response from me when they sent me something and they’d be met with…silence.
So, I decided to announce my Facebook break on Facebook itself.
I decided the best way to do it was to change my cover photo. I quickly designed a new banner:
“I’m taking an extended break from Facebook*
*If you want to reach me, call or email”
I uploaded the new banner to FB. My announcement was officially made to the world on Thursday, September 28, 2017, at 1:45 pm.
I logged off, all the while feeling itchy-fingered to log back on, anticipating a rush of comments from people as my news filled their feeds.
“No, really? You’re leaving FB? Why? How?”
I deleted FB from my tablet. I logged off the app on my phone. I wanted to make accessing FB a bit harder. But I didn’t cancel or delete my account, so the siren-song of FB notifications remained. I knew the candy was still in the house; it just required a few more steps to get to it.
I wanted to log on.
But having just announced to the world I was taking a break, what incentive did anyone have to comment about my departure? I certainly wasn’t going to be around to read it and “like” it, right? Hadn’t I just informed everyone of that?
It turned out that, except for one “like” and one “heart” on my post; a private message from a friend; and one comment from Bubba, my decision to take a break went largely, quietly, unnoticed.
The feeling inside? A weird combination of distress/disappointment and…relief.
Distress that disappearing didn’t result in anyone sending out a search party to look for me.
Relief, in knowing that the consequences of disconnecting were, in fact, pretty non-existent. Nothing blew up. I didn’t miss anything important. And without the temptation to share and read and post on Facebook, I actually freed up some quality time.
Daily Post Prompt: Rush