For the past six months, the adults in this household have been doing some real work. Not so much the work we get paid for, or the work that keeps us up late at night meeting deadlines. Rather, it’s been the sort of work that forces you to dig deep, to look inward with the piercing flashlight that is the mind’s eye, lifting out the cobwebs and shifting things around in there so that your heart, soul, and spirit have the space they need to breathe.
And so I have discovered what happens when you commit yourself to taking the risk and spending the time required to go on that long, arduous journey: you discover that you are looking at the world through an utterly different lens, one that has enormous clarity and that contains space for new experiences and perspectives to enter. Turns out, once the cobwebs and clutter are bundled up and moved aside from within, it is nearly impossible to tolerate them on the outside.
For me, that has manifested itself in a great many ways. It seems that nearly everything I encounter in my day needs paring down, trimming back, clearing out. I crave open space. Each time I open a drawer or cabinet in our house, I sit down for a minute and organize it, making a pile of things I can throw or give away. When I open my closet, I pause to clear out the clothes I no longer like or need. I can’t take earrings out of a jewelry box without pulling out all the jewelry in there that I don’t wear anymore. Stopping to get a tupperware container for one of the kids’ lunches, I end up with a big pile of mismatched pieces to toss out. I have carted carload after carload to donation centers.
Opening Facebook on my computer, I am bothered by “friends” in my newsfeed who I honestly can’t even remember from my past, and I simply unfriend them. There are no bad feelings and no guilt. Those perfectly nice people are certainly not cobwebs, but their information is not actually pertinent to me and interferes with me seeing news from folks I have actual connections with. It’s a no brainer.
This Christmas I had no need to put up all the decorations we’ve used in the past. In fact, I packed up a whole box of them to give to Goodwill. As a result, I have not felt so claustrophobic about holiday decorations that I’ve wished to take them down the second the Christmas gifts are opened. I also see excess holiday snacking and desserts as its own kind of clutter, as is excess weight. I look at a platter of cookies and after having one or two I think, “I don’t need all that.” The rest are cobwebs, really.
I know from experience that bad habits can be broken — they can be undone. Resolutions can be kept, if we work hard at them, one at a time, and harness a lot of will power. But what I am not sure about is whether we can stick to those new habits long term if we aren’t actually seeing and feeling differently. I’ve stopped eating excess cookies before, I’ve cleaned out closets, and I’ve dumped the old medicine in the bathroom cabinets, too, each time feeling so satisfied by the changes that I was absolutely sure I wouldn’t let the cobwebs creep back in. That’s not always the way it panned out.
It is no coincidence that my career has suddenly reached new heights, that my husband has renewed energy and interesting opportunities coming his way, that the kids are moving outside their comfort zones in significant ways right now. When any one member of a family shifts in perspective, things shift and grow for everyone. When two make that change, it’s a whole new world.
It is therefore no surprise that we cleared enough physical clutter out of our house that we were able move a few things around and create an entire new room, a family room, that did not exist a month ago (pictured above).
This New Year’s Eve, I wish for all of us that we might make the time to clear the cobwebs and clutter – both internally and all around us – opening up space for all good things to come in and give us exactly what we need.
May all your wishes come true in 2012.