Okay, so I’m reading one of those “get your life together” books. I read a lot of those and none of them seem to stick, btw. As the book pontificates on stepping back to see how you really perceive and feel about all the stuff in your life, physical, emotional, activities, everything, I think I’ve realized something about myself. Well, it really is something I’m well aware of but I haven’t thought much about it in several years.
It seems that the main reason I get bogged down is because I’m still placing more value on what others think I should value than what I actually do. Does that make sense?
Since it’s the Christmas season, take Christmas card giving as an example. It’s a tradition, it’s a nice thought. But what happens when you sit down to decide who you want to send cards to? You write down all the names that come to mind, then you sit and stare at the list for days, adding names frantically as you think of other people you should acknowledge. You haven’t actually thought about that neighbor that lived by you 12 years ago in ages, but you don’t want her to know that because she sent you a card last year. What about the post man? What about his weekend substitute? What about the garbage men, they certainly deserve your gratitude. See where I’m going with this? Something that started out as a simple way to let people around you know they are loved turns into a bigger nightmare than going to six different stores to find that one special toy. Of course, everyone’s world would be forever shattered if they didn’t get a card from you this year and you don’t want that on your shoulders!
Thus it is with me and my stuff in all its forms.
Case in point #1: I have a large picture of a temple in my basement. It hasn’t matched anything in my décor for the last two houses (I’ve been in this one 8 years if that tells you anything). But I hang on to it. Why? Well, yes there is the standard, “It might match again some day” thought, but more importantly there is a huge amount of guilt that goes with imagining throwing it out. I mean, it’s the temple! If I throw it away that means I don’t value the temple, right? If I take it to church and try to give it away, will somebody recognize which temple it is and know it’s mine? Then they’ll think I don’t value the temple either! And, heaven forbid the person who gave it to me should ever ask why it isn’t on my wall! (Yes, she does thing like that- frequently)
Case in point #2: I have a sweet friend who is constantly inviting me to do things with her. She knows I don’t get out much and worries about me. What she doesn’t understand is I don’t get out much by choice. My life is very full with the things I will do for my children. My own ideal is a hot bubble bath, a good book, and total silence. I don’t want to go out and play nice, that’s just not me. I turn her down repeatedly, then begin to feel guilty-- thinking she is going to think I don’t like her and I’m rejecting her. So I go and come home with a headache and more tired than when I left. Because I went, she invites me more often. . . . Wouldn’t it be easier if I could explain that I’m not lacking anything and just don’t like socializing, that I won’t think any less of her for not inviting me? Wouldn’t it be easier if she could accept that and not fear that something is terribly wrong with me?
Case in point #3: My home is not full of nice things. It is not immaculate and beautiful. It is over-run with children and the evidence of those children. The clutter books all tell you to get rid of things, have a garage sale, sell them on ebay! I look around my home and fully realize that I’m pushing it by thinking someone at Goodwill would want my stuff. I feel bad. I long for something pretty. Something nice that will stay that way. Logically, I know it won’t. But I want to perceive myself as being worthy and capable of having something nice. I want those who see me, and those I actually let into my home, to think I’ve got it together and I’m a better person because of the way I live my life. So I put my foot down and go in search of that one thing I think I need. In the end I can’t bare to part with the money that “nice” requires, so I compromise. I have a baby grand piano in my living room that is the epitome of this compromise. I got it for $50 and some manual labor moving it. Sounds like a great deal, right? Well, it needed to be refinished, the key tops had been removed in preparation for the previous owner to get new ones, ditto for the peddles. No problem. When we put our minds to it, my husband and I can accomplish almost anything. For $50 we’d finish refinishing it and have something beautiful that both of us value, right? It’s been a year. It’s partly tuned, the rest is still as we got it. Now, instead of something beautiful I have another physical testimony to the fact that I’m a flighty, scatterbrained gal who can’t get it together. I feel bad. . . I get mad. . . I attack something, determined to make it into something I can be proud of. . . it backfires big time. . . I feel bad. Get the picture?
Have you figured out my “ah-hah!” moment yet? I think I’ve discovered the core problem with me and my stuff. My life is ruled by perceptions. Not what I think of myself and my things, but what I think everybody else thinks. Realistically, I may know darn good and well that my child’s Primary teacher isn’t spending all her time wondering why I haven’t taught my child to read better (though I bet she’s still wondering about his proclamation that his parents were married in a jail- which is true, btw). But all it takes is one passing thought like that or even worse, one innocent comment and my mind is in turmoil trying to figure out how to fix other people’s perception of me.
Do I want to get rid of the things that are weighing me down? Yes, but it begins much deeper than whether or not I have a picture of the temple that I haven’t used in years.