Monthly Archives: December 2012

Clean up time

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source: Kabbalah

 

Clean Up Time

Moving a problem never solves the issue. The problem still exists, even if you don’t have to see it or smell it.

Make the uncomfortable call today. Have that long overdue talk. Clean up the mess — before it really starts stinking.

Thanks Jerry – for passing it on.

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morning“‘How long would it take me to learn to do that?’ we may ask, standing on the sideline of a longed-for-activity.

 
‘Maybe a year to be pretty good,’ the answer comes back. ‘it depends.’

As blocked creatives, we like to pretend that a year or even several years is a long, long time. Our ego plays this little trick to keep us from getting started. Instead of allowing ourselves a creative journey, we focus on the length of the trip. “It’s such a long way,” we tell ourselves. It may be, but each day is just one more day with some motion in it, and that motion toward a goal is very enjoyable.”

Progress

Change III

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When I talk about change, what do I mean? Change can mean as a shift or alteration of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, habits, desires and perspective (interior change). Change can also mean a shift or alteration of circumstances (ie: jobs/relationships/finances), conditions/environment (i.e. living/financial/health) (exterior change).

I believe interior changes can support desired exterior changes, and sometimes exterior changes can support interior changes. When we ask, “Can people change?”, we’re talking about the internal landscape…the changes in perception, thoughts and beliefs that can create new possibilities and new outcomes in a person’s life. I just saw a wonderful production of A Christmas Carol – a classic story of redemption. Scrooge, visited by three ghosts, who help him examine his past, present and likely future, offer him an ultimatum – change NOW (Christmas Eve) or meet the inevitable lonely, loveless death that your chosen thoughts, feelings, beliefs and actions will dictate. With the grace-given clarity he’s offered, Scrooge chooses a major interior overhaul — casting out his stinginess and replacing it with joyous generosity. Has has reinvented himself in the course of a night.

Such radical shifts are a documented phenomena. Often a near-death experience, a sudden loss, or a painful reconciliation with the truth of one’s denied circumstances can force a major shift, often identified as a spiritual awakening. Pema Chodron, the prolific American Buddhist nun, chronicles her awakening, in her book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. Elizabeth Gilbert, in her best-seller, Eat Pray, Love, has a radical surrender of life as she knows it, which prefaces her quest for new definition.

Change is stressful. There’s a process that occurs in the brain that signals “danger” when we have creative thought that would have us leave our comfort zone. Creative thoughts occur in our pre-frontal cortex, the newest part of the human brain that’s been developing since the beginning of time. Unfortunately, these creative thoughts are slowed down by the amygdala, located in the limbic system of the brain,  which controls our “fight or flight” response. Whenever we have an idea for change, regardless of how positive it may be, our fear is triggered, and the amygdala restricts access to the pre-frontal cortex, which makes it harder to act on our creative impulses.  That’s why, without a major push, such radical shifts are rare.

Small steady, baby steps are often much more successful at creating lasting change. Baby steps can sneak past the alarm system of the amygdala, and while we continue to advance in the small steps, resistance wears down, new neural pathways form, new habits develop.  A desired change that once looked scary and close to impossible, can be mastered and become the new “automatic” way of thinking, being and doing.

Change II

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beforeafter3

Like many, I love before and after photos. Before the internet, we’d look to women’s magazines to view the astounding transformation of homely, dumpy women into radiant, sexy, put-together figures of admiration. Reality TV capitalized on our love of a good makeover, whether it be weight loss, cosmetic surgery, home or lifestyle transformation.  Oprah has made millions on featuring shows that essentially depict people moving form before to after. She has paraded her own body through a rotating pattern of before and after.

The “before and after” phenomena is a promise of hope and change.Promise of “hope and change?” Where have I heard that, before…ah yes, a presidential campaign of  2008!  — We LOVE the promise of hope and change. “Before and after”  is tangible evidence of real change that occurred for someone, and is therefore possible for us.  It’s particularly appealing, because it jumps right over the process and rewards us with the finished result.

As a professional organizer, I especially love a good home makeover, and love not only the before  and after snapshots, but all the “during” moments, too. I love the process of starting somewhere and assuredly moving toward somewhere else. And when I say “assuredly”, that doesn’t always mean I know how to get there. In fact, what I often find thrilling is that I will meet a new client in a “before” stage of clutter, overwhelm, and exasperation, and not have any idea how we’re going to get to the other side. I have faith, once we engage, the path will reveal itself to us. There’s a lot of logistical problem-solving, and often confrontation of feelings and beliefs that must be met along the way. No two paths out of clutter have looked the same for any of my clients, but guided by general principles of organization and a willingness to surrender into the process (with support form someone else) – my clients have found themselves standing on the “after” side of “before”.

Change is very hard to create alone.  I believe it requires a compelling, felling-based desire to have something else. It requires lots of support — often physical, emotional, and spiritual — from other people. Change is a process — it can happen quickly, but is more likely to happen slowly –so it requires a lot of grit* to pass through the “during”.

*grit: frustration, weariness, not looking pretty, confused, vulnerable, angry, awkward, ego-deflating….

“Why does it have to be so hard?” I can hear myself say during many a gritty moment…well – more on that tomorrow!!

Change I

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change

Those in the game of transformation have told me that “people don’t change.” What can change for people, however, is access to a greater range of choices. With greater knowledge of choice, I can commit myself, to choices that will have my life look different than if I didn’t know I had the power to choose. In other words, if I thought circumstances, my feelings, moods, and disposition, and the feelings, moods and disposition of others dictated what was possible, then I would likely settle for what I’ve got, resigned to the way things are.

I might not like the way things are; I may feel frustrated by the limitations I experience, but without tools or access to the range of choices I have, I won’t know how to change things.

For example, two years ago, I was frustrated by the lack of connection I felt with my family – my mother, father, and sister. Because there were issues of addiction in my family growing up that limited the intimacy I experienced, I was resigned to less than satisfactory level of connection today. This is despite the fact that I’ve had years of therapy, worked a recovery program and made amends.

After entering transformational work, I gained access to he knowledge that I was still harboring resentment; was still living with the expectation that they had to change before I could be close with them; and that they owed me something, before I could be truly open and giving to them. It became clear that I could choose to forgive, I could choose to claim my full adulthood and could choose to offer love, connection, forgiveness and connection without any expectation of getting it in return. I realized that to practice openness, honestly, love and generosity gave me the sense of intimacy I was living without. My power to choose how I showed up and contributed changed, and as a result, so did my relationships. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” is what Gandhi said. Living it, opposed to having it as a nice idea takes courage, risks, and a willingness to let go of specific results and thoughts of “what am I going to get in return.”

My first call to my mother, intended to open new possibilities in the relationship, started with my heart pounding in my chest at how vulnerable I was about to be, and an uncomfortable realization that my ego was begging me to stop, to hold onto the story that she was worthy of my disdain and distance. It was so clear that my awkward, sincere openness with her was met with relief and gratitude. Our conversations had been pretty much limited to the weather and recent movies, becuase I hadn’t wanted to share with her how I really lived my life. When I opened up and let her in, I could feel a palpable shift to the tender new ground we stood on together. My commitment to weekly calls to her after that, became less awkward, and always started with me grounding myself in my choice –my choice to show up trusting, loving and open, despite any resistance, feelings of self-pity or resentment that may have been competing for my attention. Yes, I may have not changed –still had the uggy feelings come up –but I had access to choice, and a bigger, more satisfying relationship.

In my next few posts, I will explore more about change, and how it can apply to changing our environments, and dealing with issues of clutter.