It’s scary around the edges – Day 294 (Sun – Sep 30)

My room has gone through a transformation today. The transformation isn’t quite complete, but the difference between how it looked when I woke up and what it looks like now is huge. When I got up, one side of my desk had a chaotic pile of stuff that needed sorting, clearing out, and organizing. There were cloth boxes full of silly things, like jars and baggies, as well as boxes with my printer, paper for the printer, and other random stuff.

My primary goal was to clear this space and set up my printer. But I kept looking at the disaster zone on top of the desk and wondering if I might possibly be able to do something about that today as well.

As I continued to nibble on the pile throughout the day, I noticed a feeling of uncertainty hanging around the edges of my thoughts. I was afraid to think about it too much, because the reality is that I don’t know what it feels like to have a space that isn’t chaotic. Sure, I have corners and places within the room that are organized and fairly neat. But for decades, I have also had piles or boxes that are an accumulation of un-dealt-with stuff, especially papers. I would wager that I still have a few pieces of unopened mail that are older than my son (who is an adult) stashed somewhere in my oldest (and biggest) storage unit. (I have three.)

Sadly, the consistent “before” state…

For too many years, I have often felt overwhelmed by various pieces of my life and things like mail and other papers have multiplied and accumulated by – quite literally – the boxful. What kept lurking around the edges of my thoughts today is that once I’ve sorted through the miscellaneous non-paper-pile stuff, I will no longer have an excuse not to begin working on the paper piles. And that scares the pee-waddlin’ out of me! Dang! Just saying that “out loud” magnifies the fear bubbles coursing through my veins right now.

So many things have been coming clear to me in the past few weeks. The first significant “aha” was to realize just how much shame I have had around having so much stuff. I honestly didn’t realize I felt shame. I readily acknowledged a bit of embarrassment and the fact that it has been burdensome and inconvenient come moving time (and I’ve moved a ridiculous number of times in the past few years), but “shame”? Yet there it was!

Acknowledging that – and sharing those feelings with trusted friends (including my Al Anon sponsor) – must have created cracks in my walls of defense. Little by little, other insights followed. I realized – I mean truly realized – that this is a lifelong journey. There will always be more stuff to sort through, more mail to deal with, more papers to organize. This isn’t going to just “get done” and that’s it. This is a part of life! You probably already “get” this, right? But for me, for the first time in my life, it felt not only okay that this isn’t a task that will be “completed,” it felt pretty good. I don’t know if I can explain it, but it did feel good to realize this.

Not ideal, but so-o-o much better!

The next realization was that I didn’t have to deal with everything all at once. I can’t begin to guess at how long I’ve held the notion that I have to deal with all my stuff (i.e., the countless boxes in storage) all at once, in one continuous marathon clear-out-and-organize session. Otherwise it will never happen. (Can you relate?) But it suddenly dawned on me what a huge step it would be if I were actually able to go through and organize, sort and clear out just the stuff in this room. OMG! That feels like a mountain in and of itself!

So today, I tried not to think too much about what comes after I get my room into a workable, working space and just kept plodding along. It felt pretty good to throw away lots of things I really didn’t need. Small things that didn’t take up much space, but made for a lot of clutter come moving time. And you know what? I discovered there actually is a desk under the clutter!

I don’t know what it will feel like in the morning, and there’s certainly more to do, but for the first time in the month since I moved into this room, I’ll actually be able to sit at a desk to read and perhaps even do some journaling before I head to work. I’m sure the fear will resurface when I get to the rest of the stuff, but for now, I’m going to enjoy the progress I’ve made. 🙂

Who knew it could look like this!

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Challenging Choices – Day 288 (Mon – Sep 24)

The trouble with change is that there are so many choices to be made as a result of the change. Moving, in particular, presents its own challenge because virtually everything has been thrown up in the air to land in a different place. Sadly, my desk top and the corner to the left of it still look like that’s what actually happened. This is where the challenging choices come in.

Did I mention the room is quite small?

It’s the end of a day that started before 5 a.m. when my alarm clock went off. I’m tired. I probably shouldn’t have followed dinner with that delicious Trader Joe’s Greek yogurt. (I feel too full, which doesn’t help.) And I’d like to start getting ready for bed in about half an hour so I can get a reasonable night’s sleep before the alarm goes off early tomorrow morning. I have clothes to get ready, things to put away, and breakfast and lunch to plan.

I find myself faced with too many choices. I could (and probably should soon) bring my check register up-to-date. I realize I’m not at all certain what my balance actually is. (Online banking is helpful, but too often misleading.) I would like to start putting things in the desk drawers, rather than having them scattered on top of the desk or temporarily perched in various other places in the room. However, before I can put things in the desk, I’d like to remove the old and grimy-looking drawer liners and replace them with fresh, new contact paper. Plus the drawers stick when pulled, so I have some sanding to do. There are still a few boxes I need to sort and clear out. The bookshelves are only partly organized – some things are where they may stay, other things are temporarily hanging out till I can put them in more convenient places.

I could check my email, write in my reflection journal, read some Al Anon literature, relax and watch a DVD, make a call about tomorrow’s possible lunch date, write a blog post (clearly you can see which choice I made this evening), or start early preparing for the morning (picking out clothing, cutting up food for breakfast, and so on).

It’s a mystery to me how I ever used to be able to do so much before and still get my rest! I used to have a three-hour window between getting up and getting out the door; now I have a two-and-a-quarter-hour window.

How’s this for dazzlingly large…not!

Does it truly make that much difference to have my “kitchen” scattered in three locations (bedroom, kitchen and garage) when my bedroom is only five steps from the kitchen and the garage is reasonably close (although it won’t feel that way in the rain)? At my aunt and uncle’s, my bedroom was down a long hallway from the kitchen and my refrigerator was just past the good-sized dining area. Yet I seemed to have been able to get more done in the morning and to have consistently had time for my morning journaling. What am I missing??

It was more convenient to have all my refrigerated food indoors, where it only took a dozen steps each way to retrieve one more thing if I forgot it. It is challenging to have to stop and carefully plan everything I need so I only have to go to the garage once (hopefully) while preparing breakfast and lunch – especially because it’s dark out when I’m fixing all this.

But what bothers me more than anything else is the frequent sacrificing of my reflection and journaling time. That’s my time spent talking to and listening to God. That’s the time when I ground myself for the day. That’s the time I depend on to be reminded that I am not alone on this journey even though I often feel alone. At least in terms of human companionship.

I dislike having to make choices between multiple things that are important and/or multiple things that I want to be doing. I dislike having to rush or forego my journal time with God if I’m going to prepare food that adequately nourishes my body (except that I haven’t found time to properly evaluate the foods I’m preparing and suspect I need to overhaul my breakfast and lunch choices). In short, I dislike – sometimes intensely – feeling under a time crunch both morning and evening and keep wondering how on earth I’ve been able to do seemingly so much more in the past…

Yet despite this frustrating time of adapting to a new and, let’s face it, rather inadequate living space – perhaps even because of the challenges, there are incredible moments of letting go that seem to come with greater and greater ease than ever before. Could it be that this is the winepress and I’m the grapes being pressed to yield the best part of the fruit?

One bona fide perk of this tiny room – the view out the windows lined up along one wall!

Changes, Challenges and Choices – Day 283 (Wed – Sep 19)

I’m finding it hard to get started again with my blog posts after such a long gap and after not having internet access on my home computer for nine and a half months. But maybe that was a necessary “gestation” period for something more to come.

Interesting how things change in ways we didn’t expect (or want). It felt so right deciding to move into this place. And actually I believe it was the right thing to do. It’s just that I had hoped for a place that felt far more welcoming and comfortable than this has been so far. There are moments when I feel like the whiny Israelites, complaining that they got what they wanted, only to discover they didn’t like what they got!

I’m living in a room that is about 8′ by 12′. The distance between the twin bed on one wall and the desk on the facing wall is all of 34″ (almost 34″ that is). On either side of the desk, unfortunately, there are still piles of my as-yet unsorted boxes and such. I’m having to be very patient and gentle with myself these days. I arrive home from work with little energy for tackling such tasks as organizing my room. But little by little I see progress. I just didn’t expect it to take so long.

The changes that come naturally to any move are unavoidable. Different room arrangements, different furniture (in my case, at least), different logistics of where things are in relation to each other, both room-wise and stuff-wise. Following my initial move into the downstairs apartmentette, I schlepped all my things into my newly painted room, with it’s newly sanded and finished floor and a new 5’x8′ rug bridging the gap between bed and desk. I made the move pretty much all in one day, which was exhausting. But it was really nice to simply get it done.

Unfortunately the transition has been difficult, fraught with challenges. The short version (of the most annoying challenge) is that my bedroom still serves as my pantry/kitchen extension and the kitchen is essentially only a place I can use…a little. I have been allowed one small shelf-drawer – the bottom one of a lower cupboard. In other words, I can keep a few things on a shelf-drawer that’s just a couple of inches above the floor. Aside from a teensy area (less than a square foot) in the kitchen refrigerator and a few things that are now in the freezer (which was less than 1/4 full and appears to stay that way), all of my things that need freezing or refrigerating live in a tiny refrigerator in the (non-attached) garage!

The refrigerator is, thankfully, not on the garage floor. It is perched atop a makeshift cupboard which is my “pantry.” (Swell…) It’s too vulnerable to outdoor multi-legged critters from various insect families, so I’m only keeping things there that are in cans, jars, or seriously non-perishable and virtually all of them are in small plastic tubs to deter invasions. Thus, things like my boxes of cereal and granola need to live on the built-in bookshelf in my small bedroom. (So much for lots of book shelf space.)

Preparing a bowl of cereal, for instance, required grabbing a box of cereal from my bedroom, getting my bowl out of the shelf-drawer in the kitchen, pouring the cereal in the bowl, carrying the bowl out to the garage, getting the milk out of the tiny fridge to pour on my cereal, then trekking back into the house to eat the cereal. (Thank God, I haven’t yet had to do this in the rain.) I finally started keeping a small amount of milk in a small, washed & recycled plastic juice bottle in the fridge. It’s too small for my housemates to object to, but big enough to save me a few trips to the garage.

All this is to say that I am facing these and similar challenges on a daily basis – sometimes several times a day. Which leads me to “choices.”

I have to admit that it is taking a lot of very conscious effort to keep letting go and setting aside my irritation when everything about living here feels like the very opposite of what I’ve been praying for. It is only by reminding myself that this is a temporary situation and that I am blessed to have a comfortable bed and now, at long last, an internet connection that I am able to find any serenity at all. I’m finding myself truly grateful for my recovery work and for the support and encouragement I receive from my 12-step friends. I am discovering just what it means to live “one day at a time” when I very much want things to change for the better. I know they will. I just pray that it comes sooner rather than later.

In the meanwhile, I take care of myself by continuing to work my program and prepare for better things to come. Letting go, remembering to trust, and noticing my journey are all a part of the process.

Actions, Small Steps and Noticings:

  • I released my bike and was able to give it to a program friend who truly needed one (and actually rides it, unlike me ;-))
  • I bought a $20 computer table at IKEA.
  • Things go much better when I remember to be patient and gentle with myself. I really can only do one thing at a time… (Who knew?!)

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