Right now, as we speak, I am supposed to be hard at work finishing a writing project I started about 5 years ago. I’m not sure what all I have been doing lo these many moons, but it sure as heck hasn’t been carefully toiling over this long-hated research mess. So, I started thinking about what it means to us to finish what we start, and if sometimes it’s ok to simply decide to edit some things out of our lives entirely.
I don’t believe a stress-free life is possible, or even desirable. But, if we manage to lessen the things we “must” do down to the things that we have to do in order to be responsible, moral, and happy then we probably have a toehold on a pretty good life. Where are you overcommited?
1) Create more open spaces in your life: I don’t mean that in the literal sense. Though, if any of you wants to come and clean off the clutter of my toddler’s two-year-old birthday party (that was three days ago) I will be eternally grateful. What I mean is that Americans are waaaaaaay, waaaaaaay, too scheduled. We schedule ourselves into the ground at work, our religious centers, and with friends. But worst of all, we overschedule our children so much that there are whole families of sad, emotionally-winded people. Not to be a killjoy, but I am watching my fellow mommy friends put their toddlers into sports, music, art, and a host of other “lessons” and “learning opportunities.” Poppycock! I would rather sit with Gabe and dig in the dirt for three hours then listen to someone else tell me how to stimulate him to the ends of the earth. In my years of practice I have noticed that the children of all ages that are happiest are the ones who spend time with their folks. Period. They have, perhaps, a few activities to beef up the ol’ college resume, but that’s it. Take that time you were going to spend ferrying Jr. to freestyle football dance class and each of you read your own book on the couch, no cell phones. Now, that’s happiness. And literacy…but that’s probably another blog post.
2. Practice Gratitude: I believe that one of the single, best tools you can create for yourself is a gratitude journal. Take a few moments at some point during the day (I do it through an ap on my Iphone) to write down what’s going well and to thank God, the universe, or whatever floats your boat for the lovely things. I know this is a post about editing down your life, and I believe that this is a great way to do it. There are a few people (who shall remain nameless in case they read this blog) who really manage to push my buttons every time I see them. Seriously, even the therapist needs to go out back and have a quiet moment of resisting homicide sometimes. But, after that’s taken care of, I deliberately turn my focus instead to the myriad of people who are blessings to me. If I don’t do that, I for one, can ruminate. Unless it really is time for you to face a particular person or issue and make a big change–and by all means, don’t let me stop you–learn to pay attention to things that will water your emotional garden rather than grow weeds in it.
3) Have some Boundaries: Those people who know me might sometimes accuse me of being a raging liberal. On some points, I am. But I also think we live in an age of odd moral relativism. I know I’ll take some fire for that, but I don’t care. There are some things that you should do as a human being because they’re the right things to do. These include spending time with your children, keeping your commitment to your spouse or partner, and treating absolutely everyone else in your life the way you would want to be treated. If you’re lying, cheating, being a bully, and in general living in a selfish way you know who you are. Excuses like rotten parents, ugly breakups, and the whole host of other ills people use to justify mean-spirited selfishness just make the justifiers feel worse. If you’re haunted by something go ahead and get some help. Take care of it and choose not to perpetuate the emotional devestation that injured you. And, if you’re mollycoddling people like this you’re not helping them–you’re allowing them to remain emotionally handicapped and that is not kindness, it’s facilitating a delay of their healing.
So, that’s it for me tonight. Happy editing to us both!
Your Partner in Healing,
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