I Was Afraid

I remember the first time I entered a college classroom to teach Art History. I was unsure of how and when to enter. Do I stand at the door and greet the students as they enter? Do I stand at the lectern nodding to them as they find their seats?

I was asked to teach the classes with only a few weeks notice. I worked late into the evening preparing my lectures literally one chapter ahead of the class. As this was before smart boards, the Internet, and computers in the classroom, I had to also hand-select slides for the lessons. I remember questioning what was I doing and who was I to do it? Eventually I found my rhythm, I had my lessons planned further in advance, and my confidence grew. I came to love teaching those classes. I developed my own style. I personalized the artists for the students. And I grew to become a very good teacher.

*

I remember the first time I sat at a desk to write a grant. I had been asked by my supervisor to jump into the process without any training. I came home from work each night and cried, doubting my skills. Eventually I taught myself the process. I broke the proposal into manageable chunks. I grew to become a very good grant writer, raising millions of dollars annually.

 

*

I remember the first time I held my child in my arms. I was unsure of why she was crying. I was afraid when she slept too long. I wanted to run away when she wouldn’t sleep at all. I grew to become a really good mother, despite my fear and the challenges that presented themselves on a daily basis.

 

*

Now I’m finishing up the cover and the final proof of my first book, Serendipity, Chance Pilgrimages. Doubts and fears are surfacing. I question who am I to write a memoir? Sometimes I compare myself to published authors. I wonder what people will think of my story. But – I move onward. The book literally came through me – and I feel that I am obligated to bring it to print.

 

*

I’ve come to see that I receive assistance in different forms to do the things I am meant to do. That’s not to say that those doubts and fears do not walk side by side with the assistance – they do. But the inner drive to do what I feel I need to be doing at various stages of my life outpaces the fears and doubts. Until what I am meant to do becomes second nature.

Things I tried to do that I didn’t feel called to do fell by the wayside. Things didn’t work out. I wasn’t supported. And walking away was not quitting; it was acknowledging that I was meant to be doing something else.

Liz Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, writes about the differences between a job, a calling, and a vocation. We can have all three. And each sustains us in different ways.

*

What things were you called to do that initially scared you? It might have involved a job, entering into a relationship or moving a relationship to a different level. It might have had you walk away from a relationship that you lingered in out of fear. You might have up and moved across the city, state, or country – or even moved abroad temporarily. You might have agreed to co-parent children who were not your birth children. Eventually, I’m positive, that you mastered the thing that initially scared you – and you found tremendous joy at what you were doing – and probably even became a master at it.

Are you facing something now that scares you? How are you working through it? My advice is to ask deep down inside if what you are attempting to do brings you joy or feels more like a chore. If joy surfaces and outweighs the fear – continue on. Give yourself the permission to be a little scared and uncertain, but don’t let fear trump what you are called to do. If drudgery surfaces and begins to morph into anger and resentment – promise yourself to cast it aside when the time it right. I’ve known too many people who hide their gifts out of fear.

Remember, baby steps are how we learn and grow. It takes a while to master something, but if it’s your “thing” you will master it if you stick with it. No artist’s first painting or sculpture is their best. No author’s first book or poem is their masterpiece. A songwriter probably won’t want to sing to you their first composition. We try, we learn, and we master. And it’s all good; it’s all part of the process. It’s life.

*

Now with the book I’m being asked to describe myself. There’s a challenge. How do I sum up who I am in three or four sentences for the book cover? How do I want to present myself? Who am I and how do I define myself? Is it by my relationships (wife, mother)? Is it by my degrees and the universities I attended? Is it by my professional work experience? Is it by my measurable accomplishments? It is by the business I started? Is it by my interests? Do I want to come across as funny? As serious?

It’s been a real exercise for me to describe who I am. It feels as if I’ve labored with it longer than I took to write the book. And it’s hung me up on finalizing the cover and so has stalled the production.

And you? Who are you? How do you describe yourself? When we meet others we tend to describe ourselves by our profession but I want to learn more about the person other than how they earn their money.

*

Today a storm blew in. Rain fell hard and quick and then stopped. I sat on the porch as the most beautiful yellow light appeared and cloaked nature; cleansing ions filled the air. And I gave myself permission to not get the author bio exactly perfect on the first publication. So I wrote the lines and am ready to hand them over to the cover designer. Done. Maybe not perfect but I gave it my best.

If you won’t say it for yourself, I’ll say it for you. You have permission to be scared but not to let the fear stop you from sharing your gifts with the world. You have permission to sometimes want to run away but not to run from giving your best. You have permission to ask for help and you have the right to know that it will come to you– you just have to be open to the response. You have permission to cry, to be tired, and to be overwhelmed. But you don’t have permission to quit if you know deep down inside that these feelings are passing. You have an obligation to shine your light on the world and permission to rejoice in the wonderful being you are!

*

I read a wonderful quote by Lara Casey in her book Make it Happen: “Remember the good that could happen if your fear didn’t own you. You might finally do the things you were created to do. The things that could change the course of your life. The things that could inspire others and show them that they are deeply loved. Living on purpose is worth stepping into the hard stuff.”

*

I wish you love and peace as we enter the beginning of the harvest season. Enjoy the bounty that surrounds you.

I’d love to hear your stories. I’d especially love you to do the exercise of having to describe who you are – and it would make me feel less vulnerable sharing with you my blurb on the back of the book if you share yours with me. I’m going first and I’m doing it in print – now it’s your turn. Write on my Facebook page, Anne Greco, Writer.

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Elephants, Sailing, and Serendipity

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Elephants

What would you think if I told you that I agreed to share part of my life with an elephant but that each and every day I was angry that there was an elephant in my life and every day I woke up expecting the elephant to be anything other than an elephant and became angry when it was still an elephant? Crazy, huh? But I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not alone in this way of thinking. How about you? Tell me about your elephant. Do you believe that if you wish, hope, try, turn a blind eye, tolerate, or have selective memory that you can change the elephant in your life into something else?

Why not just open the door to your house, or car, or office, or yard, and wish the elephant well and show it the door? Why does that seem harder than living with an elephant that you don’t want to live with? Why do we frustrate ourselves thinking that we have the power to change an elephant into something other than an elephant? How frustrating is it that the elephant is quite happy being an elephant? Maybe part of the answer is that it’s easier for us to focus our energy (and complain and play the part victim or martyr or valiant soldier) on changing another instead of doing the work to change ourselves?

How has co-existing with an elephant made your life better? What? Did you say it hasn’t? Why? Oh, sure, you couldn’t go on vacation because you had an elephant to tend to, or you were passed up for a promotion because the elephant ate your homework? Or you had an accident because you were arguing with the elephant because it was spitting peanut shells out the window while you were driving. Or the serene space you tried to create in your home was disturbed because the elephant trampled through it?

Don’t get me wrong. I love elephants. I think they are beautiful creatures that we share our planet with. I just don’t think it’s the best idea to have one in your daily life – if you don’t want to.

Sailing

I’ll be honest, I’ve allowed a lot of elephants into my life and last month I was just plain exhausted. So, in case you hadn’t noticed, for the first time in years I missed writing my monthly newsletter. I knew you would give me a pass – and I knew I needed a break – and so I vacated my life. I went away for a week – and I sat by the water – and I read, and rested, and slept, and walked around the water – and left my daily responsibilities at home.

One afternoon I watched teenagers participate in a sail school. They realized it sailing was harder work than they originally thought. They also came to see that the safety of the harbor didn’t offer much opportunity for sailing. Not did the calm weather. Then a summer storm started to blow in and the wind picked up and the sails caught the wind and the boat took off – and then the kids had the opportunity to learn how to sail.

As I watched their boat move through the water I realized that noticing and then beginning to deal with the elephants in my life were actually providing me with the conditions that enable me to sail, to soar, and to risk leaving the safety of the harbor to experience moving through the water.

Serendipity is Almost Here!

And this month? Well, I received the draft of my book – and I cried seeing it looking like a real book. And I realized that the years of writing and editing were paying off. I understand more than ever what making yourself vulnerable to take a risk feels like. (Read Brene Brown if you want to learn about vulnerability.) I pushed aside the thoughts like “Who am I to write a book? What if people don’t like the book? What if I receive negative reviews on Amazon? What if a grammatical error wasn’t caught? What if? What if?”

And then the most horrible “What if” came to mind. And that was “What if you hide this book away and never publish it? How would you feel then?”

So – it’s onward to the final proof, and having it converted to Kindle, and making a book trailer (like a movie trailer), and writing the author biography – and all those finishing touches.

The book has an ISBN! And it has a title – Serendipity. And it’s almost ready to be born in book form!

What a month. Elephants, sailboats, and Serendipity!

You

Here’s to me – and here’s to you. Here’s to giving ourselves permission to take a break, to step out of our daily life, to show elephants to the door, to the move outside of our comfort zone – which to be honest is not very comfortable at all – sort of like sharing your space with an elephant.

I’d love to hear about your elephants, or the winds that caused you to sail and soar. Contact me at Anne Greco Writer on Facebook or anne@annegrecolifecoaching.com

Peace.

Anne

 

 

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Not This

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Do you ever have times where you can’t articulate what you want, but one thing you are certain of is what you don’t want? Liz Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, calls it a “Not This” moment.

The “Not This” moments tend to come through loud and clear. Sometimes they reside deep within us, where maybe we aren’t yet ready to speak the words, walk the walk, or take leave, yet we can’t deny feeling “not this.” This is not where I want to be, not who I want to be with, not what I want to be doing, not where I want to be living.

What is your “not this?” C’mon – we all have them. Some are small and some are so large that the “not this” will keep knocking at the door of your life until you are ready to open to what you need to do to remove it from your life. The “not this” is here for your higher good; it will keep re-appearing, reminding you that something (a job, where you live, a relationship) just isn’t right for you – meaning you’re not supported by the “not this.” You might be tolerating the “not this” or trying to excuse it away, or justify it as not that bad – but I’m here to encourage you to stop living with “not that bad” and strive to live with “really good.” Really good doesn’t mean your life will be without challenges or sorrow or disappointments – really good means that you have come to accept that you deserve to live with the “really good” things, people, and situations instead of the “not that bad” things, people, and situations.

The “not this” is asking you to be more aware and honest with yourself. It’s asking you to come to the understanding that there’s something different and better for you – something that will support you in this life of service to others.

You may be quite clear on what the “not this” is but totally unsure of what the “this” is. That’s okay. That’s where the asking comes in. Ask through prayer. Ask that answers come through dreams. Ask that answers come through words you hear in a song or read. When you begin to get those answers, those responses, you will feel nothing short of a loud internal shouting of “yes, this!” Bingo.

The responses never fail to come but you have to be open to receiving them. The responses might not come in the form you expect. They might not come in the answer you wanted. But they will flood into your life. And then it’s up to you, my friend, as to whether you want to run with them, leave them to marinate a bit, or totally ignore them and continue with the “not this” way of living.

I’ve found that the responses come more so in tiny increments versus large thunderbolts. And I think that’s so they are easier to incorporate into our lives. Tiny bites versus large chunks. At least for me – I prefer the tiny bites.

When the “this” answers come they are nothing short of pure happiness. They make me feel supported and heard. But the most important component is being receptive. Think of it like you’ve asked for a phone call with an answer to a question you had but when the phone did ring you were so distracted that you didn’t hear it, or you did hear it but didn’t answer it because you were too busy, or didn’t think the call was for you, or you didn’t expect it at the time it came, say a Sunday evening at 10pm.

The good news is that the “this” moments won’t stop coming even if you ignore them. They’re pretty persistent because they want to help you. You just have to choose to believe they will come and be receptive to the answers and the timing. And then begin to assemble the puzzle pieces until the picture becomes clear.

Recently I was struggling over a title for something I’m working on and found myself sitting in my acupuncturist’s office a few minutes early for my appointment. I was flipping through a magazine and the words for the title just jumped off the pages of the article I was reading and also provided clarity for what I was writing. I had asked, released the request, and guess what? The answer came. On a Wednesday afternoon, in an acupuncturist’s office, from a magazine I’ve never before read.

Pay attention to those “not this” moments. Pay attention to those “this” moments. Both are here to support you.

I’d love to hear your feelings on the “not this” and “this” moments of your life. Email me at anne@annegrecolifecoaching.com or share in the conversation on my Facebook page, Anne Greco, Writer.

And the photo – it’s of me and the other New Jersey Anne flanking Liz Gilbert.

Peace,

Anne

 

 

 

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How Good Are You At Asking?

Italian Rum Cake Circa 1967

When I was young I did not ask for what I wanted. It never occurred to me to say out loud what I desired. I wished and hoped that the adults around me would read my mind.

In the photo I am cutting my birthday cake for my 8th birthday. My sister and I are in our matching faux Ralph Lauren knit dresses. The cake was an Italian rum cake. Yuk. I hated that cake. Look at my face. Do I look ready to dig into it? No, I was a reluctant cake cutter. But I never told my mother that I hated that cake and so every year she ordered the same cake. I thought she would figure out that I hated it. She didn’t.

For Valentine’s Day my mother always gave me a red cardboard heart filled with butter creams. I hated butter creams but I never told her. I thought she would figure it out. She didn’t.

My sister always got the birthday cake she wanted. And her Valentine heart was always filled with the candy she loved. She told me mother what she wanted. She didn’t leave it to chance for my mother for figure things out.

Asking.

I’ve come to see that saying what I want – especially when asked – is not weird. It’s not being rude. It’s not being greedy. It’s being truthful.

Asking.

Does asking come easily for you?

Thankfully over the years I discovered my voice and learned to articulate what I want. I learned how to communicate – without feeling guilty, without feeling unworthy. I learned that I am not surrounded by mind readers.

Sometimes I still have to have a good talking to myself – and tell myself what I want because the approval addict/good girl part of me sometimes makes decisions that don’t bring me closer to receiving what I want. So now I ask myself before taking on another project if what I am about to commit to is bringing me closer to what I want or moving me further away.

Asking – and then receiving.

Are you good at the receiving part? Do you feel worthy of receiving? Do you feel guilty for saying no to things?

Asking and receiving.

Now back to birthday cake. I did learn how to ask for the cake I wanted. And my mom was happy to oblige. One year she went out of her way to get me the German chocolate cake I wanted from a bakery in Center City Philadelphia. She had no secretly held stock in Italian rum cake. She wanted to make me happy on my birthday.

You are worthy. Ask for what you want. Whether it’s a nap, help cooking dinner, someone to pick up the dry cleaning, some time alone to read. Don’t expect people around you – even with people you live with called your family – to know what you need or want.

If you work outside the home I have some news for you. Your boss doesn’t know what you want – whether it’s a raise, or a new project, or a shift in responsibilities – unless you articulate it.

If you need help bringing in the groceries – ask. Don’t do it yourself and then fume the rest of the day. If you want someone to throw on a load of wash – ask. Don’t do it yourself and then feel like a victim. In an ideal world you wouldn’t have to ask. But we don’t live in an ideal world. At least I don’t.

I’ve done the fuming bit myself. I’ve unloaded the dishwasher a little too loudly, banging cupboard doors shut after putting the clean glasses away. Only to stomp upstairs and retreat to my bedroom to read and devour half a bag of Trader Joe’s Scandinavian Swimmers gummy fish.

Now I ask. And if I do choose to do something myself then I remind myself I can’t complain. As I wrote in an earlier newsletter, sometimes you just have to do the dishes and not be at loggerheads.

Crazytown

I remember a conversation that I had with my husband when we were first married. I used to cook something that he didn’t like and one day he got angry when I served it yet again. I was surprised he didn’t like it – he never said anything. Why would I have continued to make something that he didn’t like? And why, I asked, didn’t he tell me? Answer – he thought I’d figure it out. How would I do that when he ate it every time? I’m not a mind reader – and he got angry every time I served it – taking it personally like I was doing it to him on purpose. Or else he said he was hurt that I wasn’t tuned into his food likes and dislikes. Don’t we all reside in Crazytown sometimes?

Say no to what you don’t want. Gracefully but without apologizing or feeling the need to explain. As one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, says, no is a complete sentence.

Recent Reads

Speaking of Anne Lamott, I just finished her newest book, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy. Amazing. Read it. You’re welcome.

I also just finished Erin Loechner’s Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path. Another great book

My memoir on pilgrimage is set to go to the publisher in May – so I’ll soon be recommending my book to you!

You

I’d love to hear your thoughts on asking and receiving. Because, after all, this newsletter is for you. And if there are any topics you’d like me to write about – ask! Email me at anne@annegrecolilfecoaching or comment on my Facebook page, Anne Greco, Writer.

Peace,

Anne

 

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What Do Paul Gauguin and Adele Have In Common?

Touring isn’t something that I’m good at.

Adele

 

I read this quote from Adele today in an article in which she discussed her desire to quit touring. For me her admission radiated bravery to buck a system and to develop a creative process that enabled her to remain true to herself. She showed an ability to look at what made her happy and what depleted her and in doing so exhibited a willingness to do what supported her gifts and strengthened her. And her fans would adjust; they would still hear her beautiful voice through her CDs or occasional performances on television but not necessarily through annual tours.

How many times in life do we “stay the course,” doing things in that deceptive way that tradition tells us works? How often do we step out of the box to say this works and this doesn’t and I’m not going to frustrate myself by continuing to do something that doesn’t work? Why do we tend not to discard mental and emotional tools that are broken? Silly, huh? Just like you wouldn’t keep using a vacuum cleaner that didn’t work instead of replacing it with one that did.

 

Know too that because something works for someone else does not mean that it’s what brings out your best. Someone once told me that I needed to be doing something with my business that others were doing and I informed the person that it just wasn’t my bag. (Completely throwing off this Gen X person. I had to translate.) We’re not cookies; we don’t need to fit the same mold.

Do you listen to your calling to do something out of the ordinary? Do you encourage those who ask for your advice to listen to their inner voice even though it may run counter to what our culture tells us is expected? Would you agree with your child if he/she wanted to take a gap year between high school and college? Would you be comfortable encouraging your young adult daughter or son to explore a non-traditional field of work that interested them or tell them to jump into the established workforce?

Paul Gauguin, the Post-Impressionist artist, realized that while he was good at being a stockbroker he hated it. It was too constricting. And much to his wife’s dismay, he quit a lucrative career that provided him with an income to live in a beautiful Parisian apartment and collect art to pursue his desire to create through paint and clay.

I’m not encouraging you to abandon your responsibilities especially if they include providing for a young family but I am encouraging you to either start or continue making decisions from a place of acknowledging your talents and how best to bring them to life. If Gauguin had followed his calling from the start (art) and not entered into a profession that did not bring him happiness he would have saved himself and a lot of people (namely his wife and five children) from some painful times.

As I continue to work with non-profit and for-profits businesses on leadership issues I am continually pulled to suggesting that these entities recognize that their businesses are comprised of people and that as such they are not static but ever evolving and changing. Research suggests that by 3pm most people working a traditional 9-5 job become unproductive especially those who have children returning home from school. Calls begin to go back and forth about homework and dinner until the closing bell at 5pm. The Danes have realized that workers are most productive if they work from 9am – 3pm at which time they leave to pick up children from school and daycare. They have five very productive work hours and one hour of lunch which they do not eat at their desks while working (it’s considered bad manners). Again, thinking outside of the traditional box. I realize that ideas like these are easier to bring to small businesses but I also know from experience that most small businesses are too apprehensive to even try a new approach to what a work day looks like and how a work environment functions (don’t eat at your desk and take a vacation that does not include checking in at work all day).

Back to Adele and you – I encourage you to embrace the unique person who you are, do things to support you, try things that challenge you (the only way Adele realized she didn’t like touring was to actually tour), and release things that deplete you and impact negatively on how you use your gifts in the world. No one knows you better than you know yourself. And no one is quite like the wonderful, unique person you are. You shine your light in the world first by being true to yourself and then casting that beam outward.

 

“This above all: to thine ownself be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

                        Shakespeare – Hamlet

 

P.S. As I prepare for the launch of my book I have only a few openings for new clients who are interested in mindful leadership training for themselves or their employees (lunch-and-learns, professional development, one-on-one executive training). Contact me at anne@annegrecolifecoaching.com or message me on my Facebook page, Anne Greco, Writer, if you think one of the remaining leadership training slots is for you.

 

 

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Meet Filomena and Elisa

Filomena rose with the sun. There were many things to do this day and she wanted to tackle the hardest one first. Heading out the door, she walked the narrow streets of Campolattaro. A few of her neighbors were already out and about, headed to the market, sweeping the tiny marble steps in front of their houses, or simply standing in the doorways of their homes talking to passersby. She nodded in the direction of a few women who spoke greetings to her as she passed them, not pausing to engage in conversation, wanting to get to the cemetery as quickly as possible. Entering the church grounds, she moved through the opening in the stone wall to the rows of headstones. Walking the familiar path, it wasn’t long before she was at her destination.

 

                        Excerpt from my upcoming book on pilgrimage

 

 

Filomena was my great-great-great-grandmother. She was born in 1834 and came to America at the age of 72 from Italy to help her widowed son who was living in Pennsylvania, raise his children. Elisa, my great-grandmother, was the oldest of these children. Both Filomena and Elisa were strong women who encountered many challenges in their lives. Elisa was widowed at 30 and left with six young children to raise. But both women were resilient. Filomena and Elisa became role models to me and I took a pilgrimage to Elisa’s house at a time I was feeling a bit lost and uncertain of who I was and what I was made of.

I can’t imagine what Filomena thought as she made the two-week voyage to America traveling in steerage. Never a traveler, she left behind her village to live in a foreign country at an advanced age. And she never looked back. Elisa had to figure out how to provide financially, emotionally, and physically for six children. She not only survived, she thrived, and eventually became the first woman in her family to purchase a home – the home I visited on my pilgrimage.

Who or what are your role models that you look to for strength and inspiration when you are feeling “less than?” Are they family members you never met, as in my case? Or are they friends or relatives with whom you’ve shared your life? Do you draw inspiration from nature or art? From historical or literary figures?

Has anyone ever told you that you were a role model for them? If so, how did that make you feel? Humbled? Overwhelmed? Confused? Unworthy?

Have you ever come out on the upside of a really scary and challenging time to rejoice at the fact that you were still standing, although maybe a little shakily? Did you ever survive something that you feared only to realize that it didn’t have the power over you that you ascribed to it?

You are braver than you realize. You are stronger than you realize. You are more resilient than you realize. And you inspire and touch more people than you probably realize.

I was recently speaking with someone about how my book is in its final stage of proofing. Then it’s onto cover design and formatting – and then printing or converting to an e-book. This person was such a pessimist, telling me not to quit my day job, not to think the book will sell – on and on. And I told this person that it never occurred to me that I couldn’t write and publish a book and that it wouldn’t sell. I didn’t put those limitations on myself. I never set out to write a book – I was compelling to start writing and the book flowed out of me. It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t plotted out which is why I think I was a channel for the words. And – I’ve already begun my second book.

What things have you done that have completely surprised you? What have you done that you never thought possible? Do you see how when you expand your vision and have faith in yourself that anything is possible? Sure, you might falter along the way, you might experience the “one step up, two steps back” phenomena but really – forward is better than stagnant – and anything is better than backward – except when it’s a glance back at two pretty amazing women named Filomena and Elisa.

Facebook

I changed the name of my Facebook page from Anne Greco Life Coaching to Anne Greco, Writer in advance of the book publication. If you use Facebook, please “like” the page to receive more frequent communications including photos of Elisa and other people and places that are mentioned in the book. It’s also a more direct way for us to interact.

Instructions

I’ll end with a few lines from a wonderful poem “Instructions” by Neil Gaiman:

Remember your name.

Do not lose hope – what you seek will be found…

Trust your heart, and trust your story…

For You

I wish you joy and peace as we close out February.

Anne

 

P.S. The photograph is of Elisa’s five children in 1916 shortly before the birth of her sixth child – and shortly before her husband passed away. My grandfather, Joseph, is the one without anything on his head.

           

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Ireland At Last!

Last week found me celebrating my birthday in Ireland. As you may know, it’s been my desire for a while to travel to Ireland. While I’ve visited England many times to visit my husband’s family I’d never taken that short hop to Ireland. For the past few years I’ve been drawn to reading books about the power of the Irish landscape and its people, of the “little people” who inhabit the land, and of the sacred sites that have drawn people for thousands of years. How did I come to spend a weekend in Ireland? And what does decluttering have to do with the trip? Read on.

 

January – My Favorite Month

I love the month of January. It’s a fresh start, a clean slate, a time to look forward. It’s month full of possibilities. But like Janus, after whom the month is named, it’s also a time for looking back, to taking stock. And for me it’s also a time for decluttering; for looking at what no longer serves me or makes me happy – and releasing it. I need space to grow – and the decluttering clears physical and non-physical spaces.

 

Decluttering

I’m continuing to declutter my house, looking at objects and asking when the last time was I used it, or whether I like it, whether it fits in with the feeling I want my home to have, whether it’s outdated or no longer fits, etc. And the more I clear, the freer I feel. I love books – and buy way too many – and I’ve held onto them even though I don’t re-read them. So, I’ve begun to gather the books that I’ve liked reading but know I don’t have to hold onto them. They are new books that have only been read once. I’ve decided to begin to give them away and not hold on to them.

 

I equate the clutter with holding way too many things in my hands –and this holding prevents me from receiving anything new. As I drop these things from my hands, from my plate, etc. I open myself to receiving. I want my living space to be a sanctuary. I want to feel rested, restored, and renewed in my home. I want to be surrounded with a few things that make me happy. And I want a lot of clear, open space – in my physical life and in my calendar. For example, I’ve begun saying no to speaking engagements that feel like a chore.

 

Hygge and Deluttering

Some of you have asked me to write a little more about hygge. I’m reading How to Live Danishly and really enjoying picking up tips on how to incorporate it into all aspects of my life. Hygge asks you to look at the space you inhabit and make it as cozy as possible. It recommends having several light sources that scatter the light in a room, surrounding yourself with books you like, having comfy blankets and pillows. It’s minimalist in its décor; there is no clutter. And there are lots of white candles. Like the New York Times, the Washington Post also recently featured an article on hygge. And if you’re near Philadelphia, there’s a brewpub on Fairmount Avenue called Bar Hygge.

 

There’s only so much space in your home or office or calendar. I encourage you to let these things serve you instead of the other way around. Make your living space warm and inviting. Make your workspace inspire you. Let the activities on your calendar nourish you instead of deplete you. Declutter in small bits. Do a little bit every day. You might declining an invitation or clean out one drawer in your dresser. Each little step brings you closer to creating the life you want and the space that helps you flourish.

 

One thing I’m trying to eliminate from my life (mental decluttering) is the concept of putting things off for another time. I’ve come to realize that life really is unpredictable and quite short. I’ve put off doing so many things because I held onto the false notion that I have all the time in the world. I don’t – and neither do you.

 

The Funeral

January found me in England for the funeral of my dear mother-in-law, Rosemary, the matriarch of her family. It was a bittersweet time. The service was beautiful and touching. She had a beautiful voice and sang in many local choirs. One of the choirs showed up unexpectedly and sang at her service. And her six great-grandbabies brought such joy to the day. My husband, Martin, and I stayed in her house for the week we were there, surrounded by her life in a way. Her books, her apron, her sheet music were all where she left them. I cherished my time with Rosemary and I truly miss her.

 

The Trip From Hell

As we were planning our trip to England for the funeral, it was cheaper for us to fly into Dublin and take a short flight to England instead of flying directly to England. Martin suggested spending a few nights in Dublin on our way home over my birthday weekend.

 

But the trip was met with such calamities that we almost didn’t make it to the funeral or to Dublin. To quote Martin, “You couldn’t make this stuff ( a nicer word than Martin used) up.”

 

The day we were scheduled to fly to Dublin it snowed. And snowed. And snowed. And the heater in the house broke that morning. PSEG managed to come out to fix it before we had to leave for the airport. We arrived at the airport 3 hours ahead of our scheduled flight. And we sat in the airport. And sat. And sat. Until we finally boarded at midnight, 4 hours late. And then the pilot came on and said there was a problem in the cockpit and by the time it would be fixed he would be over his hours. So the flight was cancelled. And, due to the snow, they informed us that there were no available flights to Europe for four days.

 

Because we had to attend a funeral, the airline suggested we wait until the ticket counter opened in the morning to try to get on a standby flight.The ticket counter opened at 3:30am – so we waited only to be told there we might be able to get a flight out on standby but we had to return closer to the flight time of 8pm. So we went home only and managed to find the last 2 seats out on another airline that evening – to London. So, the tickets for the connecting flight from Dublin to Manchester, England were not able to be used.

 

Flight #2 took off on time! And about 2 hours into the flight an announcement was made that we were being diverted back to Boston for some repairs. But because the plane was full of fuel for an international flight, a landing was a bit sketchy – so we were going to be met my emergency crews (ambulances and fire trucks) in case the brakes caught on fire. After landing safely and having the repairs made we took off – only to arrive in London too late to make our connecting flight to Leeds, England. So be booked another flight to Manchester, England.

 

But, our luggage never made it to London. Luckily we had packed our clothes for the funeral in our carry-on luggage.

 

We made it to Manchester (without luggage) and caught the train to Martin’s hometown. We settled in for the hour ride. At this point we had been traveling for 48 hours. And then the train stopped one station short of our destination. We were told the train could go no further due to a problem on the tracks.

 

We got off the train, without a cell phone, and had to find a pay phone to inform Martin’s family as to where we were. It was late in the evening. cold, and rainy. We were tired and defeated. But, Martin’s brother-in-law picked us up and deposited us safely at our destination.

 

Destination Dublin

Which is long way of telling you how I came to visit Ireland for the first time. I think it was the combination of having attended a funeral, been met with traveling disasters, and taking stock of my life on my birthday, that as I sat in a pub (the Hairy Lemon) on my birthday listening to a live band, I made a promise to myself that I would no longer defer doing things that I’ve wanted to do. I realize that I can do things in little increments to get to where I want to go, to do what I want to do. While I only spent two days in Ireland and not the two weeks that I’ve been dreaming of – at least I made the first of what I know will be many trips to Ireland. By suggesting the weekend, Martin showed me how to think outside of the box – and how to declutter limiting thoughts; houghts like I have to spend a long time in Ireland to experience it. And thoughts like if things aren’t going smoothly they aren’t meant to me. Sometimes, we are meant to plow through those rough patches, meet those challenges, and not give up. Whew.

 

I’d love to hear how you’ve been spending these first few weeks of the new year. Have you had a desire to declutter? Is the concept of hygge of interest to you?

As we close out my favorite month of the year I wish you warm nights in the sanctuary of your home and a new calendar to fill with activities that bring you joy!

Peace,

Anne

 

P.S. The photo is of my clearance candle holder from Anthropologie filled with white Ikea candles.

 

 

 

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