Thursday, March 31, 2016

2,016 in 2016: March

I have a rough goal of getting rid of over 2,000 things in my house this year. At the end of last month, I was quite a bit ahead of the pace. This month, I'm behind. Not much purging has happened this month, obviously. I'm not too worried about it. I wanted to use this loose goal as a push to be a little more drastic in purging, but I'm not completely tied to it. I'm at a loss of where to go next with the getting rid of things, so I haven't been doing much right now. I am going to start a 12 week course for the price of a book (more here if you're interested).

Now, let's talk about the downsides of downsizing. I figure if I'm going to talk about how much I love it, I should also be honest about those times where it pinches a bit. So far it's been books and movies. I wasn't sure which book I was in the mood to read, and when I went to the shelves to decide, I was surprised at just how few books I had left. I felt like I should have a much greater choice. Same thing happened this week when I was home sick for a couple of days and wanted to watch movies. I still had plenty of choices, but I wanted more choices. This is the thing that everyone who is reluctant to get rid of stuff talks about. But what if I want that stuff someday?

Want to know what happened? I picked something from what I had. It was the go-to stuff that I usually gravitated towards anyway, even when I had more choices. (And my choices are still ~70 movies and TV shows, I haven't been exactly stringent in my cutbacks.) I have an e-reader, I could have gotten a library book if I needed something new to read. I didn't miss any specific things that I had gotten rid of. Overall, it was a momentary pang that was swiftly gone. Believe me, the freedom of less stuff is far more important to me than fewer choices. I like that it means I am getting better use out of what I have or else utilizing something like the library, rather than having large amounts of extra stuff.

I don't want to say that there is never any regret involved with cutting things out, but it has been so little compared to the satisfaction of having my house become easier and easier to clean, and the things in my house be things that I am actually using rather than things that are just in my way. So far, I still have no regrets, and the pain is so minimal it barely counts.

Now, I'm curious how many more things I will get rid of when the "Uncluttered" course starts. I think it starts in May. Anyone want to join me?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Joy

Okay, I can't find it, but I read this fantastic article about joy on Good Friday. In the last few months, at some of the more difficult moments of depression, some that I had talked to were trying to help me "choose happiness". I can no more choose happiness at that point than I can choose flying. Happiness is a feeling, and while depression may be magnifying things, at that moment, being alone and the emptiness in life that results from that were beyond where I could make any choice for happy feelings.

In my heart, I always make a distinction, that instead I choose joy. My problem was that I couldn't articulate the reason that I felt they were different. I've tried to explain it here before, but not sure that I've really gotten it. The dictionary basically defines "joy" as "happiness", so why would one be okay and the other not? I can only give you what is my own subjective take on it, and the article was what helped me to be able to give words to this thought.

To me, joy is an attitude. It is not denying the pain, or fear, or grief that is present in your life at that moment. Like Mary at the foot of the Cross, this is not okay and it is okay to mourn, to weep, to feel the pain that is inherent when something in your life is broken and objectively not the way that things should be. However, the author of the article pointed out that Mary did so with hope, knowing that this was not the end. That, to me, is joy. In the midst of brokenness, acknowledging that this moment has meaning and value. Of knowing that there is hope for a better tomorrow, in this world or the next. Of holding on to the knowledge that this, too, has an end, and that because of Christ there is new life waiting on the other side of whatever our suffering is. I would add, beyond choosing hope, it is also choosing gratitude. To be thankful, on some level, for what is good in the midst of suffering, though it does not make the pain go away.

And of course, when the new day dawns, and Christ is risen and our suffering is a memory, then we also embrace the happiness that comes along with that.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Joy in Surrender

It's Holy Week! It seems like Ash Wednesday was just the other week, and Lent itself has been kind of a blur. How is my Lent going? I admit that I have failed on some level with everything that I have attempted for Lent. I honestly don't care. That probably is coming off wrong, but it's true. I don't care. Grace is not dependent on my perfection, but His. Grace in my life is not about being perfect so that He can come and dwell in my perfection, but turning to Him in my emptiness and brokenness so that He can fill it with His perfection and healing.

These last couple of weeks of Lent, the call to joy has not gone away, but I have been feeling a strong call to surrender. I admit that in the loneliness and depression of the last several months, there has been some bitterness. I honestly don't always want to surrender. However, I can't fully participate in joy if I don't surrender it all. There have been numerous things lately coming up to remind me of that (ok, God, I hear You!)  To find joy in Him there has to be surrender to whatever He is allowing in life, to His will in that moment.

I have definitely found joy in the reminder that in all my failures during Lent and even before, grace is not dependent on me, but Him. There have been at least a couple of Masses that have been a terrible struggle to get through. Far from receiving comfort, it was the last place that I wanted to be and I couldn't wait to get out. But the joy is that the grace of the Mass transcends whatever my crazy emotions are for the day. There is joy in accepting those emotions, those failures and recognizing that I can't do one, single thing without Him. Anything in these last few years where I have found myself able to live in the moment, move forward, try to live life to the best of my ability, I can't do one single bit of that without grace. The depression and emotional and spiritual fatigue of these last months has helped me see that, if nothing else. And there is joy in understanding that on a deeper level. It's all grace, it's not me.

In the last few days, the joy has been on a little different level. I don't know why, nor do I much care, but the shadow suddenly lifted. In depression there are good days and bad days, but there is always a shadow. For the last 4 days, the shadow was suddenly gone and I feel like me again. It was a joy to be in Mass this week and to be entering into the holiest time of the year. It is a joy to feel like I can reach out again to people around me. It was a joy to simply get on the bike at the gym and ride as hard as I could because being alive is grand. It is a joy to realize the amazing grace that God has been pouring into my life when it didn't feel like it. I don't know if this is a short term thing or long term, but at the moment I don't much care. I just want to soak it up for however long it lasts.

In the ongoing Scriptural dialogue, here is the psalm from the Magnificat last night (psalm 20) speaking directly to my thoughts and feelings right now:

May the Lord answer in time of trial;
may the name of Jacob's God protect you.

May he send you help from his shrine
and give you support from Zion.
May he remember all your offerings
and receive your sacrifice with favor.

May he give you your heart's desire
and fulfill every one of your plans.
May we ring out our joy at your victory
and rejoice in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all of your prayers.

I am sure now that the Lord
will give victory to the anointed,
will reply from his holy heaven 
with the mighty victory of his hand.

Some trust in chariots or horses, 
but we in the name of the Lord.
They will collapse and fall, 
but we shall hold and stand firm.

Give victory to the king, O Lord,
give answer on the day we call.

Tell me, how is your Lent going? Is there anything in particular that I can be praying for for you during this Holy Week? Prayer buddy, I will be continuing to pray for you this week, as well!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Joy in the Dialogue

I admit that joy has been the last thing on my mind most of this week. My emotional state was definitely what we can call less than robust (because I don't want to outright say "fragile", except that's the word for it). There are many contributing factors (PMS not being the least of these).

Friday I even skipped the gym. I never do that unless I'm ill or injured, but it just wasn't right. I can't explain it other than that. Instead, I ended up in Mass. More than a good trade, I'd say. I was late walked in just in time for the psalm: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted...those who are crushed in spirit he saves...The Lord redeems the lives of his servants; no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him."

Later I was reading the meditation for the day in the Magnificant. It was talking about the heart that is numb to God has gradually allowed itself to become hardened, and is mortally sick. I admit to feeling a fair amount of numbness in the last few months. "A numbed person deludes himself into believing that he cannot hear the inner voice that calls on him to shake off this numbness and rise out of himself... he is incapable of entering into the dialogue." I don't think that I've made it quite that far, but I definitely felt the call to enter more deeply into the dialogue with God.

There are a few more Scriptures through morning and evening prayer and Mass that are striking to me. "He is happy who is helped by Jacob's God, whose hope is in the Lord his God...it is the Lord that raises up those that are bowed down."

"He heals the broken-hearted, he binds up all their wounds."

"He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted."

"Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed."

"Behold, I make all things new."

"We had accepted within ourselves the sentence of death, that we might trust not in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead. He rescued us from such great danger of death, and he will continue to rescue us; in him we have put our hope that he will also rescue us again."

Here's one that especially spoke to the whole idea of feeling barren in the desert:
"I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink, the people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise."

"See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers."

"The Lord has done great things for us, we are filled with joy."

This post may not be of much interest to anyone besides myself, but I wanted to put it out there anyway, to remind myself if nothing else. I have fallen so short in the midst of this, but by his death and resurrection there is mercy and grace waiting. The day to day is sometimes impossibly hard, but he is in the midst of that as well. There is joy in the words that He has been speaking through the Scripture in the last few days.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

I Should Be Doing Stuff

And by "stuff", I don't mean blogging. It's okay, though. I don't mind. ;)

I was going to come home today after hiking and get some extra stuff done. And maybe I will, in a minute.  I'm enjoying a few minutes of quiet right now while not being hungry. And I mean hungry. Do you want to know what I ate today? (If you don't, click away!) I know this is the epitome of those boring blogs, but I want to tell you because everyone always acts like I'm hungry because I don't eat enough. You tell me!

5 sausage links
2 potatoes fried in butter with an onion (one of those was quite a large potato)
3 eggs cooked in coconut oil
kombucha
an apple
10 oz of turkey
2 guacamole packs, the 100 cal. ones
a chia pod (chia pudding snack)
2 fruit strips
a pumpkin snack that involved some butter and a whole can of pumpkin and some coconut flour
5 more sausage links

It's not supper yet, but the way I'm feeling, there probably will be supper. It's not a given, because I really do try to eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full, so I do sometimes skip supper when I've eaten enough and I'm no longer hungry. I am seeing that I should be eating some more vegetables, but usually I try to cook those into the foods I'm eating. Supper, if it happens, will probably be spaghetti with spaghetti squash, so there will be some there. Anyway, my point is, I do eat enough. I thought maybe too much, so I tried to snack less this week, and not go to the grocery store as often so I wouldn't buy all the food! That led to the scale being down 2 pounds, me being a step away from crazy last night with the hunger, and of course today's ridiculousness. Because even I don't always eat this much! No wonder my grocery bills are so over the top!

Anyway, food is about all that's been on my mind these last few days, so that's what you're stuck reading, if you made it this far. Also, I should mention that part of my problem is that I had a really hard workout yesterday, and did a 7 mile hike in the mountains today. I'm sure those didn't help!

I do think that food is interesting. If I avoid added sugars, wheat, dairy, nuts and limit certain other things, I can eat when I'm hungry (even when it's crazy) and not have a huge problem on the scale. Before I realized the problem that I had with those, my weight stayed sort of okay, but I'd have to be kind of hungry sometimes to avoid gaining. I currently sit about 10 pounds lighter than I did then, and I eat more. Now, I'm not saying this is the "diet plan" that everyone should do. My body has issues, and a lot of that extra weight and stuff was inflammation and I was much too tired to do as much activity as I do now. I miss a lot of foods, but not too bad, since I do NOT miss how they made me feel!

I'm sorry, there's no particular point to this blog post, other than I was too hungry to do my to-do list, and then I was already on the blogs and decided to say what was on my mind. While it's not all bad to have a high metabolism, don't go wishing you were me. I'm serious about that grocery bill! Because my body's so sensitive, I end up eating the expensive foods and a lot of it. Most people could easily feed a family on what I eat. I am thankful and blessed to have a decent job, but every time I try to cut down a bit of spending, I can't do it.

Now I'm going to go shower and maybe start my to-do list... Partly because I'm starting to get hungry again! I think it's the real deal, but I'm going to go for the distractions first in case it's just because I was writing a post about food. ;)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Minimalism... But Then What?

I have been obviously all over the minimalist idea lately. Toss all the stuff! I have a goal of getting rid of 2,016 things in 2016. I needed to toss 336 things by Monday to be on track... I'm at 391. I'm not hard and fast stuck on the idea of 2,016 things. It's a good goal, but if I reach a certain point where I have nothing else that I really want to toss, I'm not going to keep going. Still, I like it. I like that the more I get rid of, the stuff that I keep becomes more useful and enjoyable. Like everything, I think you can take it too far, but so far, it's still a lot of fun exploration for me.

I was reading this article, however, and it reminded me of something important. If you are going to create a void, why are you creating it? What are you going to do with it? It's great to create space, but one of the big things with minimalists is that they want experiences rather than stuff. Not that that's all bad, but sometimes we then end up chasing the experiences with all the fervor that we were consuming things before. The article tries to suggest a couple of reasons that experiences are more fulfilling than things for several reasons. I like experiences, but I can tell you right now that chasing experiences is no more satisfying that having all the stuff you can dream of.

The draw of minimalism for me is getting rid of some of the excess clutter and noise to create the space for me to be the best version of me. First off, that means not chasing things OR experiences, but rather having the room and the space in my life to seek God. It allows me to be more detached from things so that I can realize Who it is that I actually need to rely on. The things and the experiences that we chase will not make us happy. In my case, not even finally finding a spouse or having a family will fill that hole. Rather, if we look at it as a way of trusting Him to supply our needs rather than that we keep all of that stuff in case we need it someday, then I think it can be really beneficial.