Marie Kondo Mind%#@&

It is a hell of a lot easier to make fun of Marie Kondo’s clients when you haven’t tried the KonMari method yourself.

On our New Year’s Netflix binge, my husband and I, along with millions of others across the country, watched Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up.  Yes, there seemed to be a disconnect between the first couple at which the disorganization only hinted.  Yes, I cringed at the way the toddler’s face was seemingly smashed against the mother’s ‘boobies.’  [Not in an anti-public-breastfeeding sort of way, but in an anti-awkward-hold sort of way?]  But those are all criticisms in the category of House Hunters nit-picking.  What got me was the way the second woman still kept what seemed to be an insane amount of clothing she’d bought to ‘hit [her husband] where it hurt.’  The way the mom hoping to have a third child said she was ready to ‘tidy’ but refused to get rid of anything – and then miraculously turned the tide with no clue as to how.  There was and is obviously more of the psychological to tidying than the physical.

I already knew this.  The milkcrates of ephemera in my basement already told that tale.  Knowing and embodying this psychological and emotional truth are two entirely different things, however.

Let it be known that I embarked on our once-nightly KonMari marathon in the midst of helping my mother clean out my grandmother’s house.  My grandmother, thank God, is still with us, but recently required a move to a nursing home.  Knowing that she sat in a facility across town while we rifled through her belongings didn’t necessarily help, though.  There was a weird element of mourning someone you had not yet lost – or at least the existence that you had together, the way of life she’d known.  It also made me mourn my grandfather’s death, which happened when I was five.  I mourned it then, as a five-year-old can in her limited understanding, carrying that childhood sorrow and sense of loss into adulthood, but unearthing his buried belongings brought a fresh wave of poignancy I hadn’t expected.  Then I would come home, with a bag of someone else’s belongings I thought I needed to remember her (and him) by, and watch a show about purging the things of which I already had too many.

Two whole days went by with me fully intending to make that massive pile of clothing on my bed and start with Kondo’s first step.  I’d look at the clock and wonder whether I’d have enough time to tackle it before bedtime.  I’d gauge whether I had enough energy.  I discussed with my husband the difference between a piece ‘sparking joy’ and practicality.  But in a practical sense, those pieces that spark joy are really the items you actually wear and the others are just taking up space or waiting for the day you run out of clean laundry.

I finally decided this last Saturday to do it.  I went into the basement and grabbed an arm full of plastic dry-cleaning bags encasing one prom and a few bridesmaid’s dresses.  I hauled up my bin of summer clothes, all neatly rolled and stored for the season.  I emptied my drawers and closet.  I patted myself on the back for taking this drastic step, then looking at the huge pile, realized how many more steps I now had to take.

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So much excess in a world of want (Jennifer Butler Basile)

I probably should’ve started by holding one piece I was absolutely positive gave me joy to get that sense of what I was seeking.  Instead, I pulled out the several pieces I’d already had in my head as goners and chucked them into a pile on the floor.  This felt good initially, then left me with no idea of where to go next.  I picked up a sweater I remembered buying on our honeymoon at an Esprit store in San Fran.  Those of you children of the eighties who grew up in New England know what a big deal it was to buy something from an actual Esprit store.  I stared at it, waiting for some sort of answer, then put it down.  The memory of it sparked joy for sure, but did the sweater?  I tried on a bunch of clothes to check for fit and style, but I suppose the fact that I didn’t quite remember the fit meant I didn’t wear those pieces frequently enough to keep them.  One pair of pants in particular kicked my practicality into high gear.  I only wore them when none of my favorite jeans were in the closet, but they fit, were in good condition, and served as a good back-up.  Now, when I wear these, I curse the fact that they aren’t my better jeans, I am annoyed by the waistband and back pockets and poor stitching on some of the seams, but they are a nice neutral color and the length and boot cut of them work.  They are perfectly good pants – why would I throw them out?

Because, apparently, I have an unnatural attachment to things.  My anxiety makes me second guess my decisions.  My desperate grasp for control makes me think if I let something go, I will need it someday and won’t have it.  My tight budget won’t necessarily allow for replacement of missing items.

As I stood staring at the embarrassingly large pile of clothes, so big that I was ashamed to post it on social media that day despite the trending Marie Kondo hashtags, I was paralyzed by so much angst.  Saying thank-you couldn’t absolve me from the guilt and remorse I had in letting these things go.   Not because I was madly in love with pieces, not because I felt compelled to do a penitential cleanse.  Because it was forcing me to make decisions I’d avoided due to lack of brain bandwidth.  Because it meant facing the fact that I no longer needed the beautiful professional wardrobe I’d picked out with such pride when I’d started teaching.  Because it meant accepting that I can no longer wear skirts cut on the bias due to the way childbirth has forever altered my hips and backside.  Because it meant finally owning that any day is special enough to wear my favorite items and look good.  Because it meant not letting laundry reach an untenable level so that I actually have key pieces to wear.

Sorting clothes Marie Kondo style messed with my head because it forced me to face truths about my life, my body, and me: the ways each of them have changed, the ways they need to change.  Perhaps these realizations hit me even harder since I wasn’t expecting pieces of clothing to elicit them.

While I’ve collected these realizations, I’ve yet to process them; they’re my metaphorical basket of clean laundry in the corner yet to be folded and put away.  It took me two days to bag my discards for donation.  I still held certain things up to the light, like my Esprit sweater in the beginning, wondering whether I should part with an item so nice but so infrequently worn.

I’ve obviously learned that physical items carry psychic weight and hope that once the bags are no longer in my peripheral vision, I’ll no longer doubt my culling decisions.  I can already appreciate the way my hangers run freely on their rail; the way I can easily see and access my scarves.  I’m putting much more thought into what I wear, finding new ways to combine pieces I decided to keep.  The prospect of thoughtfully adding new pieces tailored specifically to my style as budget, necessity, and time allow is kind of exciting.  I can’t say the process has brought a whole lot of joy upon my house, as one of the children on the show proclaimed, but then I never was good at dealing with change or letting go.  And clothing is only step one, after all . . .

Granting Ourselves Permission

In college, a friend and I went out for a night of shopping.  When she was ambivalent about buying a certain item, or deciding between two, I encouraged her to buy it, or both.  Why not?  It looks great, it’s so fun, you like it, go for it.  It was so easy to pull out these positive affirmations.  There was no doubt she deserved a gift to herself.  The approval rolled off my tongue like water.  Plus, it wasn’t my money to spend 😉

This isn’t a case for fiscal irresponsibility, but a small example of how easily we give others permission, yet don’t permit ourselves the same freedom.

I grew up on the back cusp of Generation X, not quite part of it, but as of then, Millenials didn’t exist and there was no Generation Z yet leading to a brief mention of the Ys squeezed in the middle.  In any event, my hands were in technology, my heart firmly rooted in the old school.  I gauged success as being chosen for a job by a superior, validated by an organization, an agency.  By membership, the man, bureaucracy.  Not because I particularly liked it, but because it felt more official, came with a certain amount of cache.  I was used to looking at existing structures and following the chain of command.  I still hold the deep desire to be granted authenticity by a major publishing house.

Then there came under me whole generations of people, who some may say eschew all tradition and decorum to a fault, but who aren’t afraid of creating their own structures.  People who crowd source and crowd fund.  Who wake up one morning with an idea, a dream, and chase it.

In that weird shiftless space between Christmas and New Year’s, my husband and I got our adult time (as surrounded by children) by taking to the couch and Netflix documentaries.  If you watch enough food, travel, and minimalist episodes, their algorithms eventually bring you around to Expedition Happiness, a sparse, reflective film documenting the trek of two young Germans across North America.  Mogli’s music sets an ethereal tone for the film and their attitude does the rest.  They bought an out-of-commission American school bus online, secured a work Visa to retrofit it as a camper, then headed through Canada to Alaska, south along the west coast to Mexico.  Other than an outline of a route, they had no plans.  I still don’t know what they did for money.  I’m having a panic attack just thinking of it all.

And yet, I want that ability, even in small ways in my life, to allow myself such adventures.

Following up on the couple after the documentary, I saw a video wherein Mogli appealed to her fans who wanted her to perform stateside.  She explained that, in typical music industry fashion, she and her band would have to finance a trip to the States first to host a showcase to garner agent interest.  Then, if an agent were interested, he or she would arrange a tour.  A lot of capital up front for something that might never pan out.  But in the next breath, she vehemently exclaimed she wasn’t going to let such a process stop her from connecting with her fans.  She launched a plan to presell a set amount of tickets, which would guarantee her presence in that city.  She circumvented a system that didn’t serve her, cutting the head off an unyielding monster and went straight to the source – her fans.

Personality, not only generational hutzpah, also plays a huge part in such an outlook.  I am much too rooted in my sense of place, home to make a cross-continental trek indefinitely.  I am much too anxious to not plan obsessively.  However, I am also horrible at giving myself permission to follow my inner movings.

It is much too easy to say, oh I can’t do that.

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Kathy McAfee

Who is telling me I can’t?  Is it fear?  Is it adhering too closely to existing, yet increasingly changing, constructs?  Just as there is no one telling me I can’t, there is no one telling me, I can.  But no one ever will when I’m following my own movings – except me.

More people around me, my peers, my contemporaries, are branching out into nontraditional roles in the workforce by following their own desires for what they want in their lives and what they want to see in the world.  Just this week, a friend started her own business.  She got the credentials and experience she needed and went out on her own.  She didn’t look for someone to say her services were needed; she presented her skills to the world and people are seeking her out.

The ease with which I encouraged my friend to buy something special for herself, without guilt, without second-guessing; the passion with which I believe in my friends who have put themselves at the heads of their own destinies – I need to now turn these energies inward.  I must show myself the grace, compassion, and strength I offer to others.  For when I wake up in the morning burning with those dreams, it is only I who put my feet on the floor and follow them.

 

How do you grant yourself permission?

Three’s Company

How does one bounce back?

A perfectionist prolongs her reentry, waiting for the perfect post, story, sentiment; making her grand reentry so untenably grand, it may never happen.  Or be such a tremendous let-down, it truly disappoints.

A dweller in the present seizes the few minutes’ pocket of silence to write like her life depends upon it; easing back into life with the monotony of a moment, a microcosm of her world, the gentle ebb and flow of everyday.

If the procrastinator gets a hold of either of these two, nothing will ever be written again.  Too many of the dweller’s moments will pass, needing explanation, analysis.  Explanation and analysis swoop in upon the perfectionist like the ugly albatross.

As the sun warms my legs and slowly melts the snow outside, I sit at the center of a circle drawn by these three.

Truly Nasty

It is a tough time to be a woman.

I would say that applies to this point in time, but really, it applies to all points in time.

Eve was blamed for the poor choices of a free-thinking man; Joan of Arc called a witch; Hillary Clinton, a nasty woman.

In this election season, the vitriol aimed at the nation’s first serious female contender for presidency does not seem possible in our post-ban-bossy society. I’d like to say it is the opinion of one misguided and egregiously ignorant man, but I fear it is more than money that has allowed his rise to popularity.

In a world where our daughters, our students are taught they can be anything; encouraged by anyone, male or female, an individual asking to run an entire country of democratic citizens mocks and degrades a successful and powerful individual who dares challenge him – even more so because she is a woman.

And the mocking and degrading is not school yard quality. It seeks to degrade the very essence of womanhood. That to be a woman is somehow nasty and brutish.

Rather than counter policy with opposing policy, debate becomes a game of sexual power. Gender specific jibes become weapons, instead of informed discourse. Winning becomes the ultimate trophy – regardless of personal injury or insult, disrespect or demeaning.

Media are correct when they say Trump has created a sympathy of sorts for Clinton; a bond between all ‘nasty women’. But as repugnant as he is, Clinton is insidious.

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TeenVogue

I was almost tempted to pull the nasty woman t-shirt over my head – until I saw half of its proceeds directly fund Planned Parenthood.

While Clinton offers a face for the rallying cry of female power and pride, she does not offer a platform for all women.

The evil of calling a woman nasty is not countered by supporting an organization that denies the amazing capabilities of the female form.

To deny the claims of nastiness, all of womanhood must be embraced. Feminism cannot assert any sort of power if it seeks to destroy. It is not a matter of subverting individual choice; it is allowing all of the wondrous capability of life. The conception and continuance of life is the most beautiful occurrence in the universe. There is nothing nasty about it. If women want to show the true beauty and majesty of their form, of their essence, of humanity, they will not seek to snuff out life at its inception – simply to prove males like Trump don’t own their bodies and decisions. That is a hollow and soul-sucking proof of power. Death is not a victory. Bringing life into existence – that is power.

That is not to say that women who choose not to or are unable to conceive are not powerful. But we, as a society, cannot view such an integral part of the female essence and physiology as a stumbling block to power.

Women have been taught to fear their fertility. To see it as a barrier instead of a benefit. If we didn’t seek to meet men like Trump on their playing field, but elevate the arena to the full scope of what women are capable of, men would never dream of calling any woman nasty.

No woman deserves to be called such. I do feel sympathy for women mistreated by misguided men and women. But I also feel that neither candidate for president in this election represents the ultimate potential of women, of humankind.

 

Related Articles:

“Nasty woman” becomes the feminist rallying cry Hillary Clinton was waiting for by Liz Plank

There’s Already a “Nasty Woman” T-Shirt For Sale — And It Benefits Planned Parenthood by Phillip Picardi

Before Applauding Hillary’s Abortion Remarks, Know the One Fact She Ignored  by Christy Lee Parker

Nasty Women Have Much Work to Do by Alexandra Petri

Election 2016: Time to Decide by Fr. Bob Marciano

Two to Two

I went to sleep in the springtime
I awoke in summer

A riot of green,
a vibrant rush,
an air of energy

My body reclaimed and yet not my own
Inside out
the protective covering of conception gone

Gaunt fingers and ankles
ghosts of padded appendages
no longer needed to sustain life
for two

Whole again
and yet suddenly separate
A new path split
in two

Without Wee, Within

I am very much inside myself lately.

Thinking about what needs to get done,
Worrying about pain and exhaustion,
Waiting for my next chance to lie down

I weigh this alone time
for its relaxation
vs
opportunity to accomplish,
both sans wee ones

Motherhood has brought me to this state
and yet, it’s all in my head.

I struggle and strive to survive
for them
yet yearn for me

.

power_within

powercube.net

Recovery Contd.

In an online forum, a mother asked if she was the only one who thought about her experience with postpartum each and every day since she had given birth four years earlier.

I am six years out. While it’s not an everyday occurrence, it often comes to mind. In many ways, it has and continually shapes who I am – as an all-around human, not just certain aspects of motherhood.

Though I wouldn’t recommend it as a means of self-discovery, my postpartum experience taught me a lot about myself. I realized, that while I had been managing it, I’d been suffering from low-level depression and anxiety for years. What I thought was a failure to contain, control, was actually the event horizon of a long-simmering beast’s debut.

So I find it hard when people talk about postpartum recovery. I don’t feel as if I’ve recovered from postpartum depression. I feel like I’ve learned to manage it, but it’s the new normal. While I took an extended hiatus, I’ve returned to my therapist. I never stopped taking my meds. I still have low points that make me wonder if I’ll ever be healed; that make me seek out new treatments and pray for cures.

A cure lies somewhere within the intersection of self-acceptance, medical marvels, and divine intervention. I think it’s impossible that any one will work without the combination of the others.

I need to accept that this may (notice I’m not quite ready yet) be how my chemical makeup operates. That I didn’t fall short on some courage or stick-to-it-ness factor. That I didn’t fail to attract good things through my thoughts. I cannot will myself better with positive thoughts. Though my heart works that way, my mind simply is not wired for that.

Taking medicine to augment your mood is okay, even acceptable. It’s beneficial to your quality of life. It quiets the rage and keeps the nervous energy at bay.

And to fill the gap that always is – there is God. A spiritual dimension to the healing process is essential – and one I was missing for a long time. Unfortunately, this is not a one and done. I must continually seek this solace.

All three spokes of the wheel need continual attention. They all need periodic tweaking and developing. Much to my chagrin, my recovery and learning to live a full life is not a mountain to be scaled and topped with a banner of victory. I have to drag that flag with me wherever I go. As long as it still flies, I guess, there is still hope.

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barkergroup.info

The Music of the Morning

The distant beep beep beep of a backing-up garbage truck
Residual rivulets of rain on the roof
Ringing in my ears

A Benedictine monk was told to repeat a Psalm over and over in his head
When it was all he could hear, he asked his superior what then.
Repeat it until you become it.

Without the outside distractions of beeping and running water,
the ringing becomes all consuming.
How can I turn down the dissonance and resonate with the truth?

psalmist

thegospelcoalition

Both Sides Now

There are two sides to me.

One side,
so dedicated to hope and wanting to believe in its existence.
In life.
The opportunity for joy at every corner
despite the struggles.
In the goodness of humanity.

The side that must be so strong
it survives
in spite of

the other side.

A dark pessimism,
the cloud of depression
that tells me it won’t work,
you won’t find joy.
You will constantly struggle and be weighted down by me.

I am the first side.
The second side haunts me like a shadow.
It won’t win, but it makes things a hell of a lot harder.

* thanks to Joni Mitchell for title inspiration 😉

MILFing isn’t for everyone

I have been a stay at home mom for eight years.

When I stopped to calculate that number, I surprised even myself.

Nearly a decade of childrearing.  Holy milf, indeed.

When I made the decision to stay at home, I was not in love with my job, but was in love with my babies.  Simple, right?

Add a third baby, physical trauma, and postpartum depression into the mix and ‘stay at home’ was not as blissful as Leave It to Beaver would have you believe.

The other day I watched Mindy Kaling’s take on ‘Stay at Home Milf’dom in her sitcom episode of the same name.  Facing the end of maternity leave with her newborn and the start of a work relationship with an obnoxious new colleague, Mindy quits her job, telling Danny she’ll be the best MILF there ever was.  As always in the show, the irony is rich as Mindy follows the directives of a website called ‘Modern Mominista’, cooking and cleaning while looking perfectly fashionable.  Not completely sold on her decision in the first place and enduring a rough week at home, Mindy trades places with Danny for a day.  She feels alive with triumph after successfully completing a surgery.  Her victory is short lived, however, when she arrives home to Danny’s gourmet meal.  It looks as if he’s excelled at stay-at-home daddydom.  As she confesses her true feelings to the baby – how she loves him so much, but feels as if practicing as a doctor is the only thing she’s really good at – she discovers the secret to Danny’s success: his mom’s help.  Mom and Dad come to an understanding of how hard staying at home all day with baby really is.

from The Mindy Project, Season 4, Episode 5

from The Mindy Project, Season 4, Episode 5

The idea of this episode was not to vilify fathers as clueless with unreasonable expectations – though I was upset when it looked as if Danny was going to show her up (The plot redeemed itself with equal frustration 😉 ).  It was an honest – if humorous – look at all facets to the decisions of parenthood and childcare.  Mindy’s reticence at telling Danny how she really feels gets to the heart of all dilemmas surrounding motherhood – where the circles of self and mother intersect.

I didn’t want anyone else caring for my children as infants.  While that decision was fueled by love – it was followed with the close seconds of my need for control and my ambivalence toward my career.  Do women who view their careers as vocation love their children any less?  And what of women, like me, who stand by their decision to stay home, but struggle with the day-to-day carrying out of it?  Who are driven to anxiety and depression by the stimuli and stressful responsibility of it?

There is no clear-cut answer – as evidenced by Mindy’s confession to an empty room that she’s actually happy to go back to work.

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