Minimal Monday

I was away last week, meeting my brand new grandson. My middle daughter had a beautiful baby boy and I am in love. After eight days spent with their family, it was difficult to leave. My arms ache to hold him again already; I miss our quiet morning snuggles when I would let his parents sleep a bit. I miss my daughter. I find myself longing for the simplicity of older times, when families almost always lived very close. But I encouraged all three of my daughters to follow their dreams, and this daughter’s dreams have taken her out of state for now, a nine hours drive away.

About halfway along our route to meet our new grandson, my husband and I stopped overnight in the Finger Lakes of New York. We stayed in a castle-like hotel, a quirky old place with giant doors and high ceilings and a spiral staircase leading down to the bathroom, a room with no door.

I was nearly asleep at 11p.m. when my cell phone rang. It was a call from a private number. Typically, I would ignore a call like this, but because my daughter was still in the hospital, I quickly decided it was best to take the call just in case…

An eerie, raspy voice on the other end said, “This is your mother”.

I hung up.

I would certainly chalk this up to a wrong number or a prank call. And normally, I would have at least responded with “You have the wrong number” before hanging up.

But I am in the process of having my memoir published – my memoir that is about my alienation from my now dead mother. So I was a little spooked.

Life is spooky sometimes. My childhood was spooky. When your loving mother disappears without a trace, it’s weird, confusing, scary. When something so enormous happens, so life-altering, you may even spend a good part of your life seeking answers, or writing about it.

And much of your life may still be beautiful, with love and purpose and work; perhaps with children and grandchildren of your own and getting to witness the unfolding of their own precious lives; with sunshine and boat rides and birthday cakes and long walks and long hugs; with meaningful conversation and special dinners and tears and stressors and pure joy. All of that and so much more.

But through all of it, something will keep calling you back to the seeking and the writing and the Truth. For me, that something is my mother.

“This is your mother”, said the voice on the phone.

And so it is.

Minimal Monday

My very first memory of sugar is of being about three and a half years old and finding an open jar of butterscotch sauce in my family’s refrigerator.  Where was the lid? What luck! I don’t recall any other time of helping myself to the fridge at such a young age, but on this day, I recall sticking my index finger as far in as I could, swirling it around and bringing it to my tongue. I could not believe anything could taste so good. Why hadn’t anyone told me of this? I put the jar back and scurried away, dizzy with pleasure.

This was the same year that my mother disappeared from my life, and as the adults around me catered to my sweet tooth, my brain began to create a neural pathway that led straight to the cookie jar.  

If we think about a difficult time in our early lives and then think of what we did for relief, we will often find our coping mechanisms.

 Painfully shy as a teen and beer helped you feel more comfortable and social?

Lonely in childhood and food brought you comfort?

 Felt insignificant until you scored that perfect grade/position/career that demanded all your time and energy?

Feared being rejected until you learned to people please?

I think it can become questionable whether we chase something to gain pleasure or to avoid pain. Perhaps it is often some of both.

~

I never did outgrow my fondness for sweet food, and I seem to have gotten away with it so far.  According to numbers – the scale, blood sugar level, etc. I am healthy. For now. But I am also well aware of how inflammation can be brewing within the body and sneak up on you one day with a devastating disease. Our habits of today are contributing to our sickness or health of tomorrow.

There is something I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of called a spiritual bypass, a tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to avoid facing unresolved issues, or psychological wounds. While the practices can be very healthy in general – Be positive! Let go of the past! Forgive!  – they can also be used to sidestep the psychological work of facing our wounds.  And although I’ve generally had a “bring it on” attitude toward inner work, priding myself on not having the spiritual bypass tendency, if I am being totally honest, I have still denied the fact that I have been harming myself by hanging on to my very outdated vice.

 I am finallyfor real this time- ready to let go of my last line of defense between me and my true self.   I know it won’t be easy; I’ve tried and failed in the past, many times. But here I am, ready to try again, armed with an arsenal of tools.

One of my favorite tools is good old knowledge.  I’ve been listening to Dr. David Perimutter, a neurologist and author of the book Brain Wash.  I can hardly wait to dive into his book for more of his brilliance and sound advice. Hearing him describe how sugar disrupts our metabolism, and puts our reptile brain in the driver’s seat, speaks to me clearly. I not only want to avoid the pain of a foggy brain, heightened risk of Alzheimer’s, or other sugar-induced fears at my heals; I want to enjoy the pleasure of clarity, vibrancy and heightened intuition.

 It is only day #2 but I am curious, and optimistic. I want to put the lid back on the sweet stuff, and walk away into my healthy future.

I will let you know how it goes!

Minimal Monday

I have been very fortunate in motherhood with three wonderful, grown daughters whom I adore. Mother’s Day is a happy, celebratory occasion for me.

But last night as I was going to bed, I was thinking of all the moms who have been alienated from their children after a contentious divorce, as my mother had been when I was just four years old (the topic of my memoir-in-progress). I personally know a few of these mothers, and occasionally hear from others whom I’ve never met. They are loving, kind, deeply saddened mothers who desperately want to reconnect with the stolen hearts of their children.

I will not go into detail about ‘attachment-based parental-alienation’ because it is beyond the scope of this blog post (*It happens to dads too). But what I do want to tell you is that last night, without overthinking it or even pre-planning it, I reached out to a large number of these parents on a private online group, and shared my heartfelt thoughts with them. I just couldn’t let Mother’s Day go by without offering my understanding, empathy, and love. And they deeply, sincerely appreciated it.

What does this have to do with decluttering or minimalism? When we are doing our best to get rid of all that does not serve our best lives, including old beliefs, fear, and overthinking our heart’s desires and impulses, often what comes through are the most natural, aligned and effortless words and deeds.

Love isn’t hard.

Minimal Monday

Recently, I had the opportunity to be interviewed for a podcast about healing. This particular episode was about the ways in which decluttering can be a tool for healing. I can easily talk about simplifying as a means to free up your space, mind, calendar and creativity. I am a fervent proponent of the many benefits; the freedom, the momentum, the lightness….

But when asked to speak of decluttering as a practice for healing, I have to take a deep breath. The topic goes straight to my heart and conjures up the experience of navigating my own core wound. Indeed, I do believe that decluttering is a tool for allowing and uncovering what needs our attention. Freed from distractions and clutter, we are left to face ourselves, to come home to ourselves.

The conversation took that deeper dive, and if I had to summarize it in one passage, it would be this:

If there is too much inner and outer extraneous matter, we will avoid – or never find – the way to healing. On the contrary, it is hard to be uncluttered and remain lost, because the way forward is revealed in the open spaces. Clarity will lead you home every time.

THE UNCLUTTERED MOTHER: Free Up Your Space, Mind & Heart

Minimal Monday

Like most of us, I am horrified and saddened by the war in Ukraine. It has me thinking about the rise to power of Putin and other authoritarian leaders, past and current, and about the terrible harm that stems from the abuse of power.

Don’t most problems, at their core, stem from an abuse of power? Disconnected from their authentic power, people seek destructive, egoic power. From psychological or physical dominance over a child, a partner, a family, a company, a race, a nation, or the Earth itself, when unempathetic, toxic people hold power, people suffer greatly. And how did these people in power become toxic in the first place? Oftentimes from someone else abusing them much earlier in life.

Contemplating this idea runs the risk of leaving me feeling hopeless and powerless; hopeless for the vulnerable, for the children, for a world where people can intimidate and control and manipulate their way to power.

But feeling hopeless just contributes negative energy to an already chaotic time, so what is the antidote to that? For some it is activism, donations, or prayer. I think for all of us, returning again and again to our authentic power, our true Self will contribute positively, collectively, to humanity.

Meditation, caring for ourselves and others, doing our own healing work, taking a single deep breath.

Moment by moment there is a choice to help tip the scale toward love.