OK, I thought, nevermind the bugs, thirty minutes. That’s all I have to do. Focus Holly.
I narrowed my visual field and chose one set of shelves, telling myself that was all I needed to tackle today. I could organize one set of shelves in that time, right?
Thirty minutes later my phone played a happy, if somewhat muffled jingle from the back pocket of my jeans and I looked up to realize I had accomplished more than I set out to do. One whole wall of the pantry was neatly organized. I had a pile of recycling outside the door and a bag of trash. The children’s chairs sat in the next room awaiting their new home. Paper goods sat primly in their own corner of the space. Plastic containers, out of season kitchen equipment, disinfectants and cleaners occupied another set of shelves. Serving dishes and items for entertaining took up still another, ready for the next party. The time had whisked by and I was pleased with how much more open the pantry felt. I almost didn’t want to stop there, but I knew that if I left the job feeling that way, it would be much easier for me to pick it up again the next day.
Within a few days, the pantry was reorganized and I'd enjoyed the whole process, celebrating the product of my efforts. And that’s the secret, enjoying the process as well as the product.
But what could possibly have been enjoyable about organizing the basement pantry? I mean really, it’s the basement. The concrete floor and walls are cold. There might be spiders, or worse, those thousand-legged crawly things that jump out at you when you move stuff off the basement floor. Shiver. How is that a good time?
Well, let’s take another look at what actually happened.
First, I set a timer. I limited the amount of time I would have to spend on that particular job, on that particular day. This allowed me to quiet the voice in my head that whined about what a big job this was and kept asking me if I wouldn’t rather be reading that good book I started last night.
Limiting the time also encouraged me to focus my attention. I had to narrow my field of vision. No falling down the rabbit hole of figuring out where those children’s chairs or anything else that didn't belong were going to end up. Just pick them up and move them out of the pantry so I could reach the set of shelves I was working on.
As I focused my attention, I got fully present with what I was doing, and that is the key to enjoyment. I had all my attention centered in the process. I knew I wouldn’t finish the pantry that day. I wasn’t rushing or thinking about the future product of my efforts. I was attending to what I was doing in each present moment, flowing from one into the next, and that was really enjoyable. In fact, I’m looking forward to my next reorganization project.
Also, not a spider in sight, and the crawlees kept to themselves. 😉
Since last Thursday when the main floor and basement of our home was flooded, Spirit has consistently moved me out of the cozy comfort zone of my usual routines. The peaceful haven that is my home has been turned into a tornado of noise. This morning I turned on the garbage disposal in the kitchen and could barely hear it.
My ears are stuffed with squishy, bright orange ear plugs. The muted, multi-toned roar of fans, humidifiers and heater still manages to reach my abused ears. The machinery sits about on the floors of my home. Fans looking like huge, blue snails blow in every direction; the wind bouncing off walls drilled through with large holes. The hum of humidifiers competes with the fans, and the heater wins out over all with a high-pitched, unnerving tone rather like a blender set on high. There are black floor drying mats, outlined in blue painter’s tape, attached to the heater/blower by long curving, bright yellow tubes with a multitude of smaller tubes sticking out of them. They look like enormous centipedes crawling across the floor. This is a unique experience for me.
The silver lining is that this won’t last much longer. The looming cloud is the next step of working with contractors to put our home back together.
OK, not the most positive attitude. We are so lucky in the middle of a pandemic that we have been relatively unaffected. Our family and friends are all fine. A flooding toilet has been more disruptive to our lives than a world-wide pandemic. I’m counting my blessings, believe me.
So, what’s the life lesson here?
“The root of suffering is attachment.”
In this case attachment to my life as I perceive it should be. Wouldn’t it be easier if I could just accept what is? For sure it would. So, why do I choose to feel so stressed by it all? How I feel is a choice, though apparently that message hasn’t gotten through to my pounding heart, overwhelmed ears and strung out nervous system. Neither has the run-away thought train in my mind paid any attention to the warning flags of severe grumpiness posted all over the track.
Perhaps the first step is to stop taking the situation so seriously.
“This too shall pass.”
The next step is to take control of what is possible. This situation has left me feeling out of control of my home in addition to what’s going on in the world. That leaves me feeling insecure and vulnerable. It feels like there is no safe place.
See what I mean about taking things too seriously? 😉
I deeply believe that we live in a beneficent Universe and all that happens in our lives ultimately benefits us. As Abraham-Hicks says, “Everything is always working out for me.” It’s just that sometimes my inner child gets involved and throws a tantrum about how it’s all being done to her. Then she looks tearful and says, “This is so scary!” I feel for the kid.
So, what can we take control of when things feel out of control?
It’s all a matter of perspective.
There is a wonderful story of a guru and his devotee. The devotee comes before his guru and complains that his in-laws are living with him and his wife in his small house. They are taking up too much room. His house feels cramped and crowded. Can’t the guru do something about it?
The guru tells his devotee that he can solve his problem. He tells his devotee to go home and bring his goat into the house. The devotee doesn’t see how this will help but he trusts his guru. He goes home and moves his goat into the house.
The next day the devotee is back at his guru’s knee complaining of how much worse it all is. The guru tells him to bring his cow into the house with them.
The devotee is horrified but does as his guru says.
The next day the devotee is back, complaining even more. The guru tells him to bring in his chickens.
Finally, the following day, ready to tear his hair out, the devotee goes back to his guru. The devotee tells his guru that the animals have taken over his home, messing everything up. There is no room for the people. The situation is intolerable.
The guru then tells him to take the animals all back outside. The devotee rushes home to obey his guru.
The devotee comes back the next day full of delighted wonder. His house suddenly feels enormous. His guru has solved the devotee’s problem. The devotee has changed his perspective.
A good lesson here. Don't you think?
Another way to take control of what we can control is by creating a displacement activity. This doesn’t solve the problem but it is an effective stress reliever.
This morning as I walked around the house the chaos was getting to me. The clutter and mess of ripped out baseboards, holes drilled in the walls, boxes of books removed from living room book cases, furniture helter-skelter around the living room, workshop filled with boxes of books and gaming paraphernalia from the basement, noisy fans and dehumidifiers in every room, floor drying mats with hoses waiting for me to trip over them. I wanted to clean everything up and put the house back in order. The feeling was so strong it was like craving a food you cannot have. Instead, I created a displacement activity for myself.
A displacement activity is an instinctual form of releasing pent up anxiety.
“Displacement behavior usually occurs when an animal is torn between two conflicting drives, such as fear and aggression. Displacement activities often consist of comfort movements, such as grooming, scratching, drinking, or eating.” https://www.britannica.com/science/displacement-activity
In this case I’m torn between the desire to get my house fixed and my desire to throw all the fans and repair people out the front door. Instead, I’ll displace all that pent-up craving for peace and order into decluttering and cleaning my upstairs closet – doors closed, gentle music playing, and away from the noise and chaos downstairs. Bringing order and harmony into one small area of my home. I feel better just thinking about it.
Here are the three steps again.
Life is full of spiritual lessons. Some feel good, some not so good. All support us to grow. This blog is about my life lessons. Perhaps you'll find yourself within these stories.