The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Part II)

Now you’ve heard my idea of a future tidy life but Kondo doesn’t stop there. “Why?” she asks.

Why? Why? Why? Why? 3-5 times she asks for each desire. 

Why do I have clothes out the night before? 

  1. To take a decision out of my morning. 
  2. To get ready earlier.
  3. To be on time. 
  4. To start the day with less stress.
  5. To be peaceful. 

Why do I read a devotion?

  1. To be in the Word. 
  2. To center my heart. 
  3. To be open to God’s plan.
  4. To be obedient.

Why have lunches prepped for the week?

  1. To control content.
  2. To be healthier.
  3. To have more energy.
  4. To be an active mother and wife.
  5. To have a happy family.

Why? To be happy.

Kondo believes that the core of our desire to be tidy comes from our desire to be happy. Let it sink in.

The outcome of this project is happiness rather than tidiness.

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Detroit Blood

I’ve gone soft.

The change happened over a span of 8 years while adjusting to and then permanently residing in West Michigan. The adaptations have been gradual, of course, but the reality hit me today like a rush hour traffic jam on 696. Fast.

When I left the Detroit area, I left in my black ’99 Ford Taurus, seat tilted back, rap turned up, one hand on the bottom of the steering wheel, pushing 90mph and weaving in and out of traffic. Fast forward a few years and I’m returning in my white 2011 Mazda3, driving 74mph, white knuckled at 10 and 2 with straight seat back and Carrie Underwood streaming through my Bluetooth radio.

You could say things have changed a bit.

When I first sped into West Michigan 8 years ago, I cursed the slow drivers and the laid back attitudes. I stained my walk and talk with Detroit blood like a badge of honor and I’d bad mouth anyone who dissed the D.

But over the years, I grew softer. My speech calmed, my speedometer slowed, and my pace slagged. I started to look at Detroit as a concrete jungle full of aggressive type As. I hated it and I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to move back. There’s no opportunity there. The housing market hasn’t recovered. It’s dangerous!

And in many ways I have loved that I’ve softened. I don’t need to feed off aggression or memorize speed traps. I can relax. And it is nice to be relaxed…

But I realized today that becoming soft also robs you of some things. Pride, for starters. I have pride in West Michigan but as an Eastsider I had pride in myself. I knew that if you wanted something, you had to get aggressive. No one is letting you in their lane because you used your turn signal. They’re letting you in because you shot the gap into the one car length ahead of them that they didn’t mean to give you. And if you managed to switch lanes without immediately slamming on your brakes, you earned the right to be there.

Becoming soft also robs you of growth. When have you ever faced a new challenge resting on your heels and come out on top? I didn’t think so.

And, in an unexpected twist, being soft limits your happiness. The happiest people are those who constantly try new things, push their limits, conquer new goals.

As I drove 696 tonight, I realized the beauty of the Eastside. I tilted my seat back just a little. I opened my sun roof and switched my radio to Nappy Roots, for old time’s sake. In a stroke of luck, I caught the echo of classic V8 engines roaring through the cement jungle after a night ride in the Woodward Dream Cruise. I breathed in the hot pavement, rubber and exhaust of the city and thought to myself, “My children will never know the lure of this place like I did.”

My Detroit blood has thinned over the years but it still courses throughout my veins with every beat of my heart and every rev of a V8 engine. It’s still inside of me. And it always will be.

The Happiest 5k on the Planet

My alarm went off at 5:50am this morning, reminding me that I was about to run in The Color Run – Grand Rapids with one day’s worth of training under my belt and some pre-existing knee pain.

5:50am. Yuck.

My parents were up for the weekend to take care of some GR chores, so I guilted my mom into coming as my support. She was already in the shower when my alarm went off and I shuddered to think of how tired she must be.

Geared up, I headed downtown with my mom to sign-in. I was meeting up with some girlfriends for the run and found them with relative ease.

This is what we looked like before the run:

TheColorRunBefore

Clean, fresh-faced, and ready to go!

And after:

TheColorRunAfter

Success! Running with girlfriends is so much better than running alone!

The race isn’t timed so we finished when we finished and threw that competitive awkwardness out the window. I may not have been in shape but I had a great time today with my friends. When I needed to walk, we walked. But they definitely pushed me to run!

Here’s my advice: If you have little running experience, I highly recommend signing up as a 5k team leader when you’re feeling ambitious. I know that doesn’t sound like it makes a whole lot of sense but thinking about it: If you lose motivation? Too bad. You’re the leader! You’re committed to running it because people are counting on you!

5ks are kind of my new thing. They’re long enough to make you feel accomplished when you’re out of shape but short enough to be within reach. And it might have something to do with something my mom said to me today about happy people too:

She told me that the happiest people actually engage in more activities that sit outside their comfort zone. Out of curiosity or a desire to tackle something new on their list, they sign up for those things they’ve never done before and, once they complete them, they’re happier for it.

Don’t go thinking that’s made a runner out of me (yet!) – but I continue to see 5ks in my future. And someday soon, I’ll take on something new!

TheColorRunColorPacks

www.thecolorrun.com

A special thanks to my mom for cheering us on and documenting our day! It means a lot to me!

Forks in the Road Don’t Have to Have a Right and Wrong

I’m not entirely sure the purpose of nostalgia. Is it a longing for something we no longer have? A happy remembrance of what brought us to where we are today? An opportunity to laugh about your mistakes or relish in the distant praise of your few successes?

I’ve been caught up in sweet dreams of nostalgia lately. Laughter over some of my inexplicable past and a yearning for the rush that followed some of my small victories; I mull it over with an understanding that I did not have before and a clarity that comes with age.

What is the purpose of nostalgia?

Perhaps these feelings of nostalgia simply precede the next great thing.

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When you get married, do you know what they say? They say things like, “Everyone is in such a rush to get married lately! I’m taking my time and enjoying my independence.”

“I couldn’t imagine tying myself down at this point in my life.”

“We are so happy as boyfriend and girlfriend; why would we want to ruin that?”

They don’t say it to you as a warning, rather they say it at you while thinking to themselves aloud. They are lost in their own thoughts… In their personal journey of love, of relationships, of independence. Yet though they do not speak to but only at you, you hear them. And it stings to know that your friendships will inevitably change in this next chapter of life.

Suddenly, you are lost in the sweet nostalgia of an unbridled life. An ability to leave. To be tough. To stand up to anyone… And then you take the leap.

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There are choices each day that define you. A series of crossroads. And if you choose wisely, you will find more happiness in the fork you choose than you will leave behind. And as you continue to move forward with your choices, you will begin to cherish nostalgia. It is no longer a longing for the past. It is a keen awareness and acceptance of the choices that have brought you forward.

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The next time people speak aloud and tell you that a spouse is a chain and a house is an anchor or a child is the end of fun as you know it, you must keep silent. Do not retaliate or defend your choice. Do not hesitate or hurt. Remind yourself that you are happier on this turn because of the direction you chose… That this is your path and that the people speaking to themselves aloud have made the equally important choice for themselves to be single or unwed, un-mortgaged, or without attempt for children. And you must honor their choices as well.

We need to start a revolution. To fight human nature, which tells us that the grass is greener on the other side. We must not pull others toward feelings of regret to protect us from those feelings ourselves. And we must also watch ourselves when we are tempted to react to some news of a friend’s new direction following a fork in the road.

Do not compare their choices to those of your own. Just listen, love, and accept.

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We need more advocates for love in this world. For inclusiveness. For appreciation of these crossroads and the opportunities these choices make. For those that follow different paths and for those who go in an expected direction.

You are not better because you are different. You are not better because you are the same. You are you and your “you” is beautiful. I am me and that is beautiful too.

Made To Crave

Confession: I have a terrible relationship with food.

It calls to me, without relent. It taunts me from afar, on my plate, and later on my body. I have told myself that it’s okay to eat the way I eat and the amount that I eat because I exercise. But throughout seasons of inadequate exercise, I’ve had to find a new excuse. So, I told myself that it was okay because I have a fast metabolism. But without exercise and with the passing years, I find my excuse once again faulted. I’ve also used celebration, sadness, stress, and boredom as my meager excuses, each leaving me prey to guilt and shame.

I have turned to excuses instead of solutions to manage my relationship with food, but it’s starting to  wear on me – physically, emotionally, mentally…and as I’m coming to realize, spiritually.

First of all, you must understand that you can struggle with food whether you’re skinny, of healthy weight, or obese. I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Technically, I wear the same pant size that I have been wearing since I was in high school (although there are a few pairs  that are now too snug for comfort!). It doesn’t matter. What I know about my relationship with food is measured by the way my body feels, the energy I have (or don’t have), and the tightness of my clothes. It is not, for me, measured by weight.

This might be contradictory to what we see on TV, but I’ll be the first to say that my transition from college to now has seen me at 137 lbs to 142 down to 132 and from there up to 150, now trying to find solace around 142 once more. Those are real weights. My weight. You see, my weight does not bother me. In fact, when I was the most fit in college, I weighed more than I weigh now.

That’s the trick of muscle vs. fat.

I know when I’m not being healthy. And it isn’t just the fast food bags that I leave in my car out of fear of visual confession. That’s another story. I don’t even LIKE fast food! What am I doing? It’s not just the bag of workout gear that’s been sitting, untouched, in my car for the past several months. It’s not just anything. It’s a combination of things, all of which point to one sorry excuse: Lack of willpower. No, not willpower. Because willpower has become this thing that we joke about. “I just don’t have it!” we cry! And somehow that’s become an acceptable excuse among our friends, laughable even.

What I lack: Determination. Commitment. Hard work. My real issue with food is that I am always looking for an excuse. I love food. I hate food. Either way, I find myself eating when I’m full or eating things I instantly regret. It’s a problem that I’ve had, maybe secretly, since at least 5th grade. And it’s left me sluggish, and upset, and full of shame and defensiveness.

I don’t believe in diets.

I don’t like people telling me what I can and cannot eat.

I’ve been carefully stepping on a slippery slope, always telling myself that I can still get back to my healthy lifestyle when I make the decision to do so. All the while, I’m absolutely aware that life happens. Excuses happen. And I could very well find myself years down the road cursing the fact that I didn’t start now.

I picked up a book the other day. Every once in a while, I get a book or magazine about healthy eating or lifestyles to make me feel healthy. It’s pathetic, I know. (I had a habit of reciting Bob Greene’s The Best Life Diet for some time, but it’s now been replaced). This book, Made To Crave, is different.

Made To Crave by Lysa Terkeurst is a spiritual approach to a healthy lifestyle. In it, Lysa examines our draw to food from a biblical standpoint. She embraces that we are made to crave but encourages us to use our cravings as they were intended, to honor God. She challenges herself and her readers to see their unhealthy food cravings as roadblocks to our true purpose to crave a close relationship with God.

I know it might seem far fetched to non-believers, but I really don’t have the determination/commitment/hard work to do this on my own. I think Lysa is onto something. In fact, I think that she might have tapped into the most important diet secret of all…

Anyway, I’ll let you know how my spiritual life improves as I join her on this journey. Hopefully, it will come with a report of renewed energy too!

I Cannot Deny that He is Present

I start off my day with an alarm clock chirping to warn me of the impending workday. It’s not just any workday, however; it’s Saturday.

I roll over in an attempt to ignore my alarm clock and realize that sometime between going to bed and waking up, I’ve been joined by my handsome husband. The thought of leaving him so soon on one of our mutually free mornings seems cruel.

He gently reminds me to get up and I finally come around. No time to shower. Start the coffee and grab a bowl of cereal. Who knows how long this day could be.

I borrow the Jeep for traction and head off. When I arrive, I’m not surprised to see that I’m the last one in.

Five hours sneak past me and I look up to find myself no longer surrounded by a team, but rather I am with only one other woman who has stuck out the day with me. I tell her to pack up and head home. I need a break and I’ll come back to finish.

One hour is all I can afford to see my husband before he goes to work for the evening. I plan to shower him with attention but by the time I walk in, my stomach is growling. I need lunch.

He makes me a lunch and patiently listens to my exhausted babble before sending me back to work to finish out my day. I hate to leave again but I go, knowing I have less than two hours to meet my deadline to ship; FedEx should have later pick-ups on Saturdays.

I get to work and the door doesn’t open. Locked as locked can be. I pull out my extra set of keys to trigger the unlock and remember I took the pass off during the week. It’s on my main set now so I can have them when I need them. But I took the Jeep today. A week too late.

A phone call and a few minutes later, Fred pulls up and hands off my keys, giving me a small pep talk before zooming off to work. I truly love that man.

Race the clock. One hour down. After losing so much time with my key debacle, I now have to cut my losses. I pack up the Jeep and head off to FedEx to make the 4pm delivery. On the way, I call Fred for reinforcement. He tells me to back and finish the job. Whether FedEx delivers or not, I’ll have done my part.

I know he’s right so I head back to work for the third time today. I let myself in and this time, I turn on the radio. Black Keys. I get into a rhythm and start to feel a little rush of energy now that my deadline’s blown. I go over the paperwork for the shipment carefully and, once convinced that I have everything in order, I head back to FedEx.

The woman smiles when she sees me. “You again?” she asks.

“Last one of the day.” I reply and turn to leave.

“Just in time.” she says. “They haven’t come yet.”

I, forty-five minutes past pick-up, make the deadline. The rush of relief is tangible – formed into tiny droplets that well-up under my eyes.

I hastily exit with a smile and tears on my face and take a deep breath of the cold air outside.

God is ever-present in our lives.

I don’t know how people can go through life denying His hand… He is there.

My heart is humbled and joyed on my ride home and my head is full of thankful prayers. It might seem simple, but it is the simple things that make up our days.

I turn into our apartment complex and see “reverse” lights coming toward me. She’ll see me. I’m driving a big, red Jeep. She has to see me.

I reach for the horn to tap a warning but the horn hasn’t worked in over a year. It’s not my car and I’ve wasted precious reaction time.

CRUNCH.

I look down my driver’s side window and see a hood dented up toward me. The driver drives back into her parking spot and I park on the opposite side. I open the door, expecting the worst.

The door swings freely and I shut it with no extra force. I look at the door. Then I look at the front. Then the back. Then I rub my hand along the side. I crouch down and look at different angles.

That car did hit my driver’s side, didn’t it?

I replay the collision in my head and I’m certain she back up into my driver’s side door.

At this time, she walks over. She’s young. She seems apologetic and admits that she didn’t see me. I continue to look at the car and ask her how she is. She was doing fine until now but I tell her my day had started poorly and that unexpected things happened to make it better.

“It’s weird.” I tell her. “I don’t see any damage on my car. I think this is another one of those good things.”

By this time, her mother has come out to join us. She asks what happens and her daughter explains the situation. Now all three of us are looking at the car. After some disbelief and relief, an offer to come over if I see anything later, and well-wishes, we part ways.

This is strange. Strange, but good. Strange because it is unexpected. And certainly from God. I am not deserving, but He loves me. And it won’t happen to me often (though it might), but He wants me to feel His love in my life.

I am loved.

I started my day with stress, regret, and guilt. After blowing my deadline, I started to struggle with the choice between husband and work while conflicted that the deadline wasn’t entirely my own to begin with.

I believe that God used the snow’s delay at FedEx to let me know that He values my relationship with my husband. To remind me that I am a hard worker and that I should find some peace in that, even if I miss a deadline. I believe that a car collision without damage or harm is a definite warning that the horn needs to be looked after – that God gives us the tools to be safe and that we need to empower ourselves to use them. I also believe it will be a warning for the young woman who backed into me – a “painless” lesson in the importance of staying alert.

I believe that today has been a very loud message from God to say nothing more than: “I am here. You are looked after.”

And that says it all.

Mourning Utilities with a Happy Heart.

Here’s the countdown, if you can believe it: I am 10 days away from marrying my best friend. At this point, I’ve surpassed the wedding jitters and just want to get on with the show, okay?! Next Saturday feels like miles away and we cannot wait to be married to each other!

It’s great, preparing to marry your companion. It’s exciting and fun and joyful. It doesn’t feel strange either. Looking up marriage license information doesn’t seem strange to me at all. Nor does calling to confirm appointments or putting on my wedding dress at the fitting. It’s not strange to pick up our keys to our new place. These things just aren’t strange to me!

But for whatever reason, today when I put a stop notice on my gas utility service for October 24, it flipped my stomach.

No more favorite little apartment.

No more coming home to my own space.

I will never go home to something that is just mine ever again.

Don’t get me wrong! Every night I come home to my little apartment now, I wish Freddy would come too. That’s why it is strange that I feel this ping that I’m leaving something behind. A heart tug over utilities?!?!?

I went to a church service once about change. (Well, to be fair, I’ve heard many sermons about change…but this one sticks out in my head.) I’m certain I’ve mentioned it before, but the idea behind it was that change is difficult for us. End of story. Be it bad, good, or great change – we must go through a season of mourning for whatever we leave behind in change.

So here I am, mourning my little apartment while at the same time decorating our new apartment in my mind, filling it with pictures and laughter and Freddy’s guitar playing and piano.

The whole thing is just an unexpected reminder that we, as people, struggle with change even when we yearn for it.

It’s a good lesson to come across with such a happy heart. Remind me of this later in life. I’m certain that I will need it!