Wow, It's Been A While!

The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue. ~Author Unknown 

Neo, my sister's sweet puppy, contemplating his future.

After last year's 3-day I suspect my sister and I needed a short break. We had a great time and it was a great sister-bonding experience for each of us, but WOW, was it exhausting! I'm just now, three months later, able to start getting back into a routine.

Actually, I shouldn't say that. It's not all entirely true. Every year, for the last three years, I've been applying themes to the year. 2009 was the Year of Chill, 2010 was the Year of Happiness, and this year is the Year of Simplicity. So the first few months of the year, I took a break and re-evaluated my life.

This all began when I realized for a woman in my early 30's I was far too stressed, unhealthy, angry, and just plain too unhappy. I had lost my ability to cope and enjoy life and I desperately needed to relearn those skills again.

Rather than try and tackle it all at once, I decided to start small. It began with the Year of Chill. I told myself, this year it's time to just "chill the heck out." I figured that would be a good place to start. I really needed to learn to how to properly evaluate what deserved an elevated heart rate, dilated blood vessels, migraine, backache, and weight gain and what didn't. When put into that perspective, I learned pretty quick to chill. What took forever to learn was remembering to evaluate the situation in those terms. And in case you're took me a whole year to retrain my thinking; to remember to stop and think before feeling and reacting.

2010 was the Year of Happiness. Now that I had learned to chill, the next step was to start paying attention and stop judging. I decided I was done looking for the next best thing. I think in our society now, with the constant parade of stuff and information, our brains have been retrained to be in a constant state of expectation. The problem is, when we're constantly expecting we can't enjoy what's going on right now and we miss out. So I adopted the Stop, Drop, and Roll mantra I learned in elementary school in the off chance I should catch fire. "Stop" what you're thinking, "Drop" what you're doing, and "Roll" around in the moment. Corny I know, but man did it work. Once again, the hard part was remembering to remember. But once I did, my life was brand new to me. Even my cats started liking me more, not cuddle up on a cold night more, but at least they don't run away when I walk into the room any more.

So this brings me to 2011. Now that I had tackled chilling out and recognizing happiness, the next logical step to me was a good cleaning out of my brain. I wanted to sift through my habits and needs and figure out what was useful and what was taking up space. I needed to figure out if it was life that was stressing me out, or my approach to life that was stressing me out.

I live a relatively blessed life. I have a good job, we own a business, a house, cars, have healthy food on the table, and family and friends that love us and we love back. When you really think about it, what the heck else does one need? This ties directly back to the expectations I was talking about in the last paragraph. The world, as it's been shaped today, makes a person feel as if what they have isn't enough and so we again spend our hard earned money buying stuff we really don't need to feed a learned need that doesn't have to be.

So to tackle this I dubbed this year the Year of Simplicity. I sat down New Year's Eve and wrote down a game plan for uncluttering my mind and life, breaking it down into steps as I figured that in order to tackle this year's task I needed to be much more organized. It wasn't a matter of retraining my mind, this task required physical work.

January I decided to work on my health. I started keeping a log of daily stressors, chronicling everything! I did this for about a week. It started being obvious real quick how ridiculous I could be. Fortunately, it also became really obvious that most of the things I was stressing about I could decide to not stress out about (as they had nothing to do with me; I'm nosy), or I could actually do something to prevent the stress. This led to me evaluating the everyday actions of my life.  Meaning I decided to clean out my house!

I learned that my house and how it was organized was a huge cause of my stress. We have too much stuff and I honestly didn't think we did. Moreover, the stuff we have that we do need isn't organized in such as way as to be useful. So my husband and I are going room by room, cleaning out everything we don't need or use, having a garage sale, and donating everything we can't sell. Just doing this and having my mind geared towards this makes me feel so much more in control.

Who knows if any of this will work. However applying a theme to each year, having something to work towards and look forward to, is healing in itself. My life isn't perfect but I'm the type of person who finds more in the pursuit rather than the attainment.



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