Sunday, 23 February 2014

Our Relationship With Physical Things

Our house just flooded. It was quite the marvelous catastrophe.

Sometime in the morning, while we were at work, the water return pipe in the bathroom upstairs split and started pumping water onto the floor. It washed down the cold air return, destroying the furnace. The carpets outside of the bathroom were soaked, and water washed down into the floor below.

From there things got interesting. The water moved through the main floor's ceiling, dripping everywhere, eventually creating holes allowing it to pour more freely. The main floor was eventually drenched. Then, the process repeated itself in the basement. By the time the leak was discovered a large section of the ceiling down there had caved in, and several inches of water had accumulated.

Ultimately, due to mold and rot concerns, we were forced to move out the next day. This was almost two weeks ago, and last I checked the place still hadn't dried.

That first night though, after sending our daughter to a friend's house, we decided to spend the night there hoping against hope that everything would be fine. Industrial dehumidifiers on every floor and dozens of huge fans shook the place, and we sincerely hoped that somehow, some way, the water would dry out and we wouldn't be forced from the place that had been our home for the past decade.

Even as we laid there in bed that night, the room thundering like a factory floor, we knew in our hearts that this was the end of our life in this place.

Somehow it was difficult to be upset about it though. Even though this was the end of this house, it was hardly the end of us.

So the next morning, when the place only got more humid and the carpets only seemed to get more soaked, we went about the business of packing the place up as quickly as possible. Since time was against us and we needed to extract the critical stuff first, we packed asking one question above all else: "do we really need this thing?"

The answer was astounding. As we packed up our house, we discovered hundreds of pounds of keepsakes, appliances, books and nick-nacks that we just didn't need. The sheer volume of the objects we owned that weren't actually necessary truly astounded us. When we bought these things they were precious to us. Now, they were being tossed into extra-large black garbage bags, not worth the strain of packing properly, and were being shipped off to the Goodwill or the dumpster.

Let's be clear, though: our home has never really seemed cluttered. It wasn't until we were forced to look in every corner and forgotten drawer that we realized how many things had piled up over the years.

In the end, we got rid of almost half of everything we owned. In the new house you can't tell, it looks reasonably well furnished and we lack for nothing. We just de-cluttered.

What I never could have anticipated is how amazing this feels. It's true what they say: our possessions end up owning us. Getting rid of them truly has made us feel free, and living in this new house feels much more civilized and healthy knowing that there isn't anything hiding in the corners or forgotten in cupboards.

I'm not saying that I'm ready to live a monk's life (we're still looking for the "right" new couch, for instance) but now we only let things in that will serve our lives, and immediately rid ourselves of useless baggage. Our attitudes have really shifted, and we find that when we see something beautiful in the world we're no longer as inclined to want to own it. The thought of owning something we don't need, in fact, has begun to seem strangely self-destructive.

This fresh start feels so good, it's a wonder we didn't do it ages ago. Spring is coming up. Plan some cleaning. You'll be amazed how it affects your mind and soul.

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Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Growth Means Becoming Someone Else

You can't become the person you want to be unless you're willing to let go of the person you are.

I knew a guy once who used to say "well I'm just like that, that's just who I am," at least twice during every conversation we ever had.

This meant that, as the years wore on, he never did anything new. Everything was filtered through the thought "is this who I really am? Am I a guy that does something like that?" Then he'd go inside, look for a memory of something he had experienced that might be similar, and if he didn't find one he'd refuse to participate.

You could say that this was his Ego dominating his life. His current state was the perfect state, and must not be touched.

Most people sense the inherent danger in this. To truly live and extend oneself, you must leave your comfort zone. You must do something wonderful and new even if it "isn't you". The alternative is to lead a stagnate, colourless life.

Recently I was reminded that there is another step. Dipping your toe in unfamiliar waters just to see what is there is only the beginning.

What if there's something you want to do that is radically different than the way you've been your whole life? What if you want to learn a new language, or become a musician, or an aerobics instructor? What if there's absolutely nothing in your entire life that would indicate you could pull any of that off, but you've decided that it's something you want?

First of all, if you're on the fence about something like this, I hereby encourage you to go for it. Life is far too long to spend it suffering in the hell that is "what if".

Next, spend a half-hour every single day doing the new thing. Now, your life won't accommodate the new thing because you don't currently do the new thing. That isn't who you are. But if you want it to become this new person who does this thing, then something else is going to have to be removed for a half-hour a day.

This is where the sacrifice of who you were comes in. Something in your life is going to have to go away so that you can replace it with this new thing.

That might be easy. After all, you might be the kind of guy who spends 3 hours watching TV every night. Now you can be a 2 hour a night kind of guy. That'll be just the way you are.

Or, it might be hard. You might be pushed for family time, work time, and your volunteer work on top of all of the housework that never seems to be caught up. If that's the case, either your work hours or the volunteer hours need shaving back, or someone else is going to have to handle more housework. In any case, you're going to have to pick something and let it go.

Or, it might be nearly impossible. You might be trying to change a habit or get over a phobia that has controlled you all your life. Letting go of these things you do in favor of NOT doing them is tough. Still, people do it every day. You just have to decide to do it, figure out what you want to replace it with, and go out there to find the help you need to cross the finish line.

No matter what the case, however, everything is always possible as long as you're willing to let go of your old life in favor of the new one. To our Ego, that sounds a bit like dying. It will fight back with anger and fear and bitter cynical "but you don't understand" nonsense. Ignore it, and change anyway.

Kill the Ego definition of who you are, and give birth to the new Ego definition of who you are becoming.

Just one last thought: the things we say and do in a day define us. Thinking and dreaming don't count. So if you've read a new book and adopted a new philosophy, more power to you, but you haven't changed unless either your actions or your words have. Don't let the Ego trick you into thinking that simply wishing will make it so!

Now. The world is yours. How would you like to enjoy it?

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