Note: This is Part 4 in a series.
A few days ago, I flew on glass… early morning on a jet ski in Lake of the Ozarks before many boats were out and before the wind cracked one eye and yawned good morning.The air was cool, and I was free.
There was no resistance anywhere on the horizon of my being, my thoughts, my life.
Can life be like that more often?
I don’t know.
But I’d like it if it was.
In this series about relationships, it’s becoming clear why my life is sometimes like flying on glass. I’m becoming super aware of what I do that causes the difference between choppiness and flying on glass.
I’ve been observing myself and my responses and reactions. I see what I do now in response to people and life, and especially my intimate partner.
So far, though, I haven’t changed anything.
I’m also doing my best not to judge, I’m simply the one who watches what I do, say or feel.
Because of my observing, I’m in a unique position to work with what I find. I’m not knee deep in my actions, thoughts or feelings, I’ve stepped back. I’m curious about me. This makes it easier to see what I’ve got.
Because I’m observing and not judging, it will be easier to decide what to keep and what to toss.
AND WHY WOULD I SORT?
This is yet another way closets and relationships parallel each other beautifully.
I sort my closet because my closet is too full and it gets messy easily.
Why does a closet get messy?
Not everything in the closet has a use or purpose.
Not everything in the closet has a home.
Not everything in the closet is loved.
There are items in the closet I no longer need or use.
Translation: There are ways I relate to life that no longer suit me. For instance, I get angry about people who treat me differently than I think they should. I no longer wish to go to the great trouble of feeling resentful. I used to think strong emotions about this were unavoidable. I’m over it.
There are pieces of clothing in my closet I don’t even like.
Translation: In relationships with others, I am not true to myself, resulting in situations I don’t even like. Sometimes I say “yes” when “no” is the truth.
There is too much clothing for the available space.
Translation: I have too much to do. I over-burden myself. I feel stressed about my ongoing level of activity. My life feels chaotic and crammed. I take on more than I can reasonably handle. I feel overwhelmed.
There are items in my closet that aren’t really mine. I didn’t personally choose them. My aunt gave me this sweater and I’m afraid to throw it away or even give it away.
Translation: There are ways I act, things I say, habits I have that I was taught. They aren’t really mine. They were given to me and I accepted them. There are ways I was taught to be that aren’t “me.”
WHAT MAKES US NUTS AND CRAZY
If you remember, you can’t really clean a closet by re-arranging what’s already there. Trying to do this over and over will eventually make you totally nuts.
Instead, the idea is this:
- Become aware of what’s there.
- Sort. Purge. Only keep a piece of clothing if it sparks joy.
- Organize what’s left.
In step one, becoming aware, I learned the great art of Observing and noticed quite a bit about myself. I saw my defaults. I observed myself under stress. Over time, it became crystal clear how I respond to others (or situations) under all sorts of conditions.
Want to know how we’re ALL a bit out to lunch?
Most people believe they can stay exactly the same and improve their relationship with someone else.
They believe it’s a matter of re-arranging how they already are.
It doesn’t work that way.
With closets, you can’t keep everything you now have and expect your closet to improve.
Similarly, you can’t keep all of your habitual thinking, responses or conclusions and expect to get along better with your partner.
Sorry, it’s not possible.
You must keep on keepin’ on. Let’s go to Step Two — sort and purge.
THINGS ARE ABOUT TO GET MORE DIRECT
I have one criteria for sorting, which is the same one I had for my actual clothing closet: Does this item make me happy?
Translation: Does this thing I do or say make me happy? Does it move me toward living more joyfully?
Does this reaction I have improve my life? Is this way of thinking helping me in some way? Does this habit contribute to my well-being, my health, my joy?
If my habit of response doesn’t create more of what I want in my heart of hearts, I write it down.
I put it on paper, where my mind can’t change it.
Then, next time I’m in the middle of that reaction (the one I wrote on paper), I take a moment to consciously set it aside. I don’t use it.
At the very least, in that moment, I realize fully that my response is only one of many ways to react, and isn’t it interesting that I picked the one I did. I wonder what else I could do?
I’m cracking open my habit by questioning it.
How would this work?
My brand new phone had a texting habit I didn’t understand. Two texting programs kept fighting about who was the default. When I sent a message, I was interrupted with the question “would you like ME (whatever the name of the program was…) to be your default?”
If I answered yes in order to send the message, there were more demands from this very smart phone.
“That means you’re giving me (the phone) access to pretty much everything on your phone. Is that OK with you?” (You know how that goes…)
Not being able to easily send a message made me frustrated. I got upset. Every time.
In the grand scheme of things, this phone example is totally dinky. It’s not important at all. But fair and square, it’s an example of what’s hanging in my relationship closet, and it’s better to start with “dinky” when it comes to sorting and purging. It’s easier to get rolling.
Also, have you noticed that spending valuable time and energy being upset about a lot of dinky issues drains us.
I ask myself, “Does this reaction about my phone make me happy?”
I ask myself, “Does this reaction about my phone cause me stress?”
I write down my belief: My phone should send texts without asking me any questions.
That’s part one of sorting. I notice a belief that causes upset. I write it down. S/he should, they should, should not…
Then, just for a moment, I practice setting it aside (taking it out of the closet) and take a moment to realize:
- do I still use this? want this? need this?
- do I like this way of being?
- is this way of being even mine? or did I inherit it? did someone teach me this?
- does this way of being cause me to be overworked? too busy? is this way of thinking burdening me? making me worry? upsetting me?
I’m simply questioning my habits and thoughts, I’m offering them up for investigation. As Leonard Cohen says, “There is a crack in everything… that’s how the light gets in.”
Next week, we’ll talk more about sorting (letting the light in).