Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hopeful Thoughts: Gifts vs Goals

Something insanely exciting happened since we last hung out. Something that I have been working towards for years. Years, people! Blood, sweat, and tears o'plenty. So would you like to know what happened? What made me feel like a rock star and a domestic goddess and a reasonable adult all at the same time?

Here, I'll just show you.

My entire house is clean. 
All at the same time. 

Well at least all the public areas. It's a miracle, I tell you. Cue the angel voices.

Come on and  check it out: 

Here's the basement.

Yes, I admit it is a little insane to take pictures of my entire house, just to prove it was all clean at the same time. But you have no idea how much I have put into this endeavor. I have been trying to make this possible for the last 15 years, and I have spent the last 2 years putting ALL my free time towards this goal. 

I know I sound like I'm at Messy House Annonmous, "Hi, I'm CM Shaw and I can't get my house clean..." and I'm OK with that. But I wanted to show everyone I know all you guys that attaining your goals is possible. Even hard ones. I love things but I can't be bothered to clean regularly so this was a huge one for me. 

Unfortunately, if was fleeting. About 20 min after the above photos were taken it looked like this:

We fed the entire Varsity Girl's Soccer Team. 

It's cool. My goal wasn't actually to maintain a clean house. I despise my children when my house is clean, becuase I know they are going to mess it up the second they walk in. For  the sake of family health and harmony, my goal was for it to be possible to clean my entire house in less than a week. 

It took me 4 days.  I was stunned. Completely speechless. I don't know that I ever thought through how I would feel if I actually made it happen. I'll be honest. There were tears. And a triumphant call to my mother. And a post on Instagram. I know. Ridiculous. But let me remind you where I started, when I was living in Before

I bring all this up, firstly for total self aggrandizement, but mostly because I have been thinking a lot about goals. I set the goal to get my house "magazine shoot" beautiful at least 4 years ago. And while I still have a bit more left to hit that lofty goal, I am getting pretty close. So of course, I have launched off on another huge goal: to design and decorate my sister's house in Portland, Oregon by the middle of August.

She bought her house 2 or 3 years ago, but never really moved into it. She was working a lot and had roommates with furniture and tons of debris, so she just kind of slept there and ignored it all. She recently went through a huge round of soul searching and decided it was time to get rid of the roommates and their stuff and make her cute little ranch house her own. Now I will probably be telling you more about this project in the future, so forgive me for not going into much more detail today. 

Today we are going to talk about her office.

It's the smallest room in the house, but it is perfect for her to work from home and actually get something done. And she has a great love for all things Alice in Wonderland, so that is our theme.

And in my feverish Pinteresting our calm and measured design conversations, we decided to go with a color scheme like the above movie poster. While looking for wall colors, I found this awesome pin from Living With Lupus . (I tried to pull it up here, but alas, I am not super tech savvy.) Anyway, the point is light blue-grey-green walls, waterfall of fantastic plates, clocks, and over-scale flowers. Very "Wonderland meets Productivity", right? 

So, still flush with my recent cleaning success, I dove right in. I have been to every thrift shop within 20 miles of my house in the last three days. Yes, there has been dinner. No the laundry's not folded and most things are no longer clean. But look what I have found!

So many beauties!

I scored at almost every location I went to. And they were mostly $3 or less. 

By this point, I had decided I was the best "wall plate finder for a plate waterfall over a desk" ever. 

Then I started looking for red plates and purple plates. And clocks. 

Nothing. Nada. No juice anywhere.

And it stopped being fun. Finding these things RIGHT NOW was all I could think about. I scoured the internet seeing what I could find. I thought about building clocks or if Ikea sold them cheap. I looked on Ebay for red plates and found that I hated all of them as they were either plain red, or Christmas themed. Boo. I was thinking about plates as I went to sleep at night and as I woke up I was frantic to start looking again. 

Yesterday, as I was driving to my third thrift shop of the day, I thought to myself, 
 "Am I working this a little too hard?" 

Um...Yes. Yes you are. 
Obsession anyone? 

And that's when I realized there are Goals...and there are Gifts.

Goals are the things we want to accomplish. They take effort and planning and time and energy. And sometimes money. And you are pretty much in control of whether they happen or not. 

Then there are the Gifts.

Gifts are the things that fall out of the sky and help you achieve your goals. Things like cheap, pretty plates at thrift shops in just the colors you were looking for. Or the exact piece of furniture you were hoping to find on the side of the road. Just waiting for you to save it.

The thing about Gifts, is that you have NO CONTROL of them. 
They just happen to you. 
You find them. 

And I had gotten cocky...and ...dare I say it...Greedy.

Yes, I assumed the Universe would grant me what ever I asked of it, at least in the plate department, RIGHT NOW. Because it always works that way...right?

NO! No, it  never works that way. You have to wait for it. 

And that, my friend, is the difference between Gifts and Goals. This disparity becomes relevant mostly because we are a productive, focused lot. We like to finish Today. We don't like it when things are In. The. Way. We want things to wrap up nicely and neatly. And as soon as possible. No loose ends here.

When they don't, we get frustrated. We think, "Why isn't this stupid thing done yet? Freaking Sistine Chapel!" And we apply ourselves even harder. We try to steal the Gifts, by forcing it. By going anywhere we think they might be. By spending all night on Craigslist. By putting in too much effort. And we lose the fun and the wonder of it all in our search for completion and working through our List. 

Well, the good news is, I came to my senses and I am not doing any more plate hunting until the day after tomorrow, when there are about a billion garage sales in my area. But another funny thing has happened since I stopped looking. I realized there were other things going on in my life, that I had forgotten about. Like watering my recently transplanted trees. I love to water them and see how my garden changes from day to day. I had been so busy seeking, that I forgot to look at my garden, which is a daily Gift. And I forgot to read Harry Potter to my 8 year old. Another Gift. And I almost forgot to watch "Fixer Upper." Gasp! I know, right? I told you I was obsessed.

As I drop the obsession, I can see that abundance which fills my life. 

So if you are pushing really hard on something, and find yourself getting frustrated, take a second and ask yourself, "Am I trying to steal a Gift? Or am I working through a Goal?" If you are stealing a Gift, take a step back and just relax a little. Look around and see what else you could do to keep yourself busy until the Gift chooses to reveal itself. Or you could always work on another Goal. I always have plenty to spare. Keep the effort going to the things you can control. And have patience and faith to wait for the things that you can't.

Do you guys ever find Gifts? 

Or get wrapped in in seeking things? 

I'd love to hear your stories.

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw

Monday, April 11, 2016

Hopeful Thoughts: Today's Work

March was a blur for me. 

My mother and my sister came to visit and we went many places and had much fun. 

Can you believe my mom just turned 70? She's such a babe! 
Here she and my sister are at the Philadelphia Flower Show. 

They brought me spring. 

My mind has been freed of something, like the clearness of the air after a huge storm. 

And then there was Spring Break, with all that my children wanted to do 
and visiting some dear friends in another state, and Easter. 

And then my projects started again. Big projects. The kind that have been on the back burner for ages, because you know once you start, it's full stream ahead. I started two of those in the last two weeks. 

It has been glorious.

And I haven't even told you about the pending birthday party or the drama over prom dates and soccer games or the child that needs extra help in school or the carpool that isn't really working out. Then there's the poor husband who is working 24/7 to complete a major project that he found out last week was due at the end of the month, when it normally isn't due until July.

There's a lot moving in my life right now. 


And it was worse when I was running barn sales. 

I know you understand. You have all the things and events and life that comes with being involved in things and other people. You have your own dreams and goals and want to support the dreams and goals of those around you. And there is always so much. In every direction.

But during the barn sale years, I discovered a little trick that saved me. 
And like all brilliant ideas that save you in a pinch, when the crisis was over, 

I promptly forgot it.

But with all the hoohah I have been living in, I recently remembered that the only way to make it sanely through all the overload is by focusing on Today's Work.

Today's Work is simply deciding what are the absolutely "must accomplish" things for that day. You figure that out, allowing for what you want to do most, and what your family and personal schedule will actually allow for, and then you stop worrying about the rest of it. And when that work is done, you stop for the day and rest and breathe. 

You don't add to the list. You don't plan more than you have time for. You think it through really carefully, with an eye to being kind to yourself, and an eye on what is actually humanly possible in the course of one day. And then you stop adding things. And you only think about what's on your list. You do only that, in what ever order most pleases you. 

That is Today's Work.

It saved me so much stress. I worried so much less, because I knew I would actually get stuff done. And that I couldn't do any more than what was on my list. It's hard to feel bad about yourself when you know you've done all you can with your day. And that you met all your goals. It's a very happy way to live.

If you need to think about things coming in the future, you write in time to plan. If you want to read your book and it's going to expire soon, you add reading for "x" amount of time into that day's plan every day until you're done. If you need to do the laundry, but you also want to do lunch with a friend, they both become Today's Work, if that seems to fit your schedule. 

The point here is to take a few minutes in the morning, or on a Sunday afternoon and plan what its you have to do that week or day along with what you want to do most. If you go day by day, most of the time, they both fit. Admittedly, this is harder if you have a job or small children. But I think it could apply if you modify your expectations to what is possible in your life.

Keep in mind, for this to work out, you have to be painfully honest about what is actually possible for you to do in a day. If you have a lower energy level, reorganizing your entire kitchen in a day is not going to happen. You cannot clean every single bedroom and bathroom in a 4 bdrm 3 bath house and still wash your car, your dog, your children, and run the PTA meeting that night. Well maybe you could do it once...But not every single day. Be reasonable in your planning. Include meal prep times, driving children places, favorite TV shows, showering time, exercise time, and things you really want to do along with all the dishes and cleaning and mom-ing. Because that is all work. When you finish, you have accomplished something. You should feel the happiness that comes from crossing something OFF THE LIST. 

And you should consider the things you want to do just as valid as the things you have to do. Just because an activity is pleasant and chosen, doesn't mean it isn't work, or that it shouldn't be considered an accomplishment. On the contrary, allowing yourself to live your own life in the face of all the Many Things may be the biggest accomplishment of them all.

So think about it. What do you need to do? What do you want to do most? What do you have to do? Write them down. Look at your calendar and see which day they best fit on. Then make your decisions. What is each day's work? What will you allow and what will you place on another day? If you have trouble deciding, say a little prayer. God will help you know. 

And once you have decided, let every thing else go. Don't think about the laundry in your bedroom if it's not Today's Work. Add it to another day's list. Focus on the work you have chosen. Make reminders for the next day's plan, but do not carry that extra work. Trust that to the energy from another day. I promise that "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof". Unless, of course, you decide to add a bunch more stuff to your day.

And if you plan too much or to little, don't despair. Don't beat yourself up.  You are doing this for the first time. Forgive yourself. Try again, but think about how much time things really take you, and plan a little less or a little more. Keep trying and keep focusing and keep letting go. 

Hopefully you will find yourself more able to breathe. More satisfied. Less lost in what "should be done". Less worried about forgetting something. More at home in your own life.

Which are all good things. Maybe the best kinds of things. 

What have you guys found helps when life is overwhelming? 
I know I am not the only one who lives their life like this.

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw