Darcy Lewis Design

Adventures in "Good Enough" Design

Archive for the category “My Life”

A Life Lived Backwards

We are now a month in to the new year and facing a dramatically changing world – both at home and abroad.  This seems like a good time for me to explain my belief in living life backwards.

Far too many of us sort of drift through life doing what is expected of us or what we ‘have’ to do, with little design or intention.  Do you work at a job you hate because you need the money?  Does your current life bring you joy, fulfillment, satisfaction?

I believe in living backwards:  Start with my total goal of what my ideal life looks like, then figure out how to get there.
Many people tell me how ‘lucky’ I am to have such a wonderful husband, they ask me wistfully where I found him and if he has a brother…  And it’s true, he is amazing and I am lucky.  But it’s not an accident or mere luck that my husband is so perfect.  I had stopped dating, resigned to being single rather than settling for the wrong guy.  When I met him, I told him on the first date that I was looking to get married (in general, not necessarily to him), and that if he wasn’t open to the possibility of commitment then he should tell me now.  He was very taken aback, but after a little thought he decided he was open to the possibility.  I spent the first week of dates ‘interviewing’ him to see if he met my criteria and if we had compatible life goals, views, and interests.  I even laid out my expectations for how we communicate and fight, how we handle major life issues, and what kind of marriage and relationship I wanted to have.  I got lucky in that he was compatible, wanted the same things, and was willing to compromise with me.  But if he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have kept dating him let alone married him.  Now, this approach seems really cold-blooded to some, but it did ensure that I didn’t waste his time or mine, it ensured that we were on the same page from the very beginning of our relationship, and it did ensure that we have a very solid foundation to our marriage.  The start of a new relationship is the best time to be pragmatic – before you get emotionally invested.

So, are you ready to live your life backwards?

  1. Sit down and think carefully about what your ideal life looks like.  Where do you live? What do you do with your day? What kind of relationships do you have? Be sure to also think about what you enjoy doing and what skills you have that you want to use or skills you want to develop.  The more in detail you go, the more successful the next step will be…
  2. Plot out how to get from here to there:  Do you need further education? How will you make that happen? Do you need to master a certain skill set? Find a class or just start with some books from the library and YouTube! KNOW YOURSELF – make sure your desired goal is what you really want and your plan needs to be realistic for you -if you aren’t academically-inclined, a future that requires a PhD might not be right for you.  I am very impatient and a little lazy, so any life goal or plan that requires very patient work (like being an art restorer) is totally out for me (there is a reason I created the Good Enough philosophy!!)  Be aware that as well as you may know yourself, you may be wrong about things.  Maybe you are generally impatient but for the right thing you have unlimited patience… maybe you could be an art restorer after all! I know lawyers who hate conflict but have been shocked to find they love being a litigator (which is all about direct conflict!) Don’t get so locked in to ‘knowing yourself’ that you don’t try new things.
  3. Finally, make choices that further your goals.  Evaluate opportunities – will this help me towards my goal or take me in a different direction? (Sometimes we find wonderful things in other directions, but not if they are pushing us to stay where we don’t want to be!)  Look for the right opportunities – volunteer for an extra work project that will let you develop skills you need, sign up to teach something you need to practice with, develop an article on your topic and submit it to local publications or the office newsletter.  Find role models – people in your or a similar industry who are doing what you want to do and study how they got there.  Call them and ask for an informational interview and pick their brain about how they got there and what they like and don’t like about their job.
    Be ruthless – you may have to make very difficult choices about work, time, and relationships, and friends and family may feel threatened by your plan – especially if you want something very different than what they have.

Don’t forget to stop periodically, at least once a year, and evaluate where you are, make sure your desired destination hasn’t changed (if it has, redo your plan and continue towards the new goal!), check for trends and changes in your industry that will impact your plans and adjust accordingly.

I made this choice very very early in my life, and have been living pretty close to my ideal life ever since!  Nay-sayers will try to shoot you down with archaic notions of ‘paying your dues’ by doing something you hate before you’ve ‘earned’ the right to enjoy your life.  I believe that life is too short to waste it on something you don’t love.  These goals are not impossible and they aren’t just a luxury for the rich.  This does require discipline and dedication and lots of hard work, but it is possible and achievable!

What are you going to work towards this year?  I have 3 books I’m working on that I need to make serious progress on; I have some art competitions coming up I’m racing to finish pieces for; I’m growing my textile business; I’m starting to study for law school which I will be starting this fall; I have my Fulbright stint abroad coming up, and I have a number of smaller personal and collaborative projects that I’m also trying to juggle.  I’m hoping this year is a very full, successful, productive, joyous, and healthy one for us all!!

Would love to hear from you about your plans and goals for the year!

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On Failing and Dreaming…

I’ve spent the day sitting on the couch watching the snow fall in endless drifts, working on my computer, and thinking about what the past year has brought and what I want for my future.

This year has been one of incredible growth for my little textile shop – we’ve smashed milestone after milestone, and I have had so many challenges and opportunities both personal and professional.  I would love for my shop to growth to be linear (well, at least for a little bit), and to fling myself with abandon into the many new things that await me, but I find myself mentally hesitating and sometimes even sabotaging myself by being unfocused and not actually taking the steps needed to pursue my dreams.  In trying to figure this out, I keep coming back to one of Amazon’s mantras – Think Big.  This is a specific trait they look for in candidates – the ability to think way beyond the current reality and imagine a much bigger, better, reality.  My husband, who helped interview candidates during his tenure there, said that was the single trait that most sunk otherwise-promising candidates.  I, too, am struggling to Think Big.  My personal and professional dreams are accessible, all I have to do is reach out and grab them.  But apparently I’m afraid to.  And what really kills me about this is that THERE IS NO CONSEQUENCE!  If I try and fail I will be in literally the exact same position I am now – which is pretty damn good, honestly!  If I try and succeed, then that would be AH-MAZING.  Really, there is no possible way to screw this up, and yet, I’m refusing to jump.

Do secret fears of being unworthy hold me back? Am I afraid that if I try and fail than I will consider myself an utter failure so am trying to protect my self-image? I don’t have answers, but I’m going to try to get an early start on my New Year’s resolution: JUMP, DAMMIT!

I’d love to hear from you: What’s holding you back? What dreams are you still reaching for? What is your resolution? And especially, what are you going to do to actualize it?

A Word on Housekeeping…

First, let me start by reminding everyone that today is Election Day in the US.  Living in a democracy places certain obligations on us. In exchange for having a say, we must speak up.  In exchange for a trial by a jury of our peers, we must serve our peers as we would wish to be served.  So please, recognize the privileges we have and turn out and vote! Vote for the candidate that you feel best serves your interests, your vision for the future, or if none of them, than the one you think is as close to the center as possible since it’s the polarization of the extremes that divides us so much.  When you are summoned for jury duty, show up and don’t try to get out of it, and do your honest best!  Remember, there are many other systems we could be living under that wouldn’t place such obligations on us but would also not give us the kind of freedoms we claim to cherish.  Thank you.  *Stepping off my soap box*

Ok, sorry about that – I get very excited by civil obligations and how we can build a better society.

On to housekeeping!  I recently realized that while my house is always messy, my soul craves organization and neatness.  I keep buying storage bins and organizers in the faint and illogical hope that if I own the right bins, then my life will be magically organized.  Since I don’t actually know what to do, I end up with a pile of empty bins and a messy house…  I invited a friend to help me hang art (since I SUCK at hanging art – I can make art, but then I put it in a pile.  My notion of hanging art seems to be limited to one piece per wall.), and since she’s SO organized, I asked her for advice on my mess.  She looked in astonishment at the disorder and told me that I was very organized already, I was just trying to over-organize!!  Well!!!  That was a bit of a revelation. When I started thinking about this, I realized that I spent my childhood arranging the kitchen spice drawer alphabetically, but at the same time kept losing things because I would put them away in the wrong boxes…  So I began pondering the psychology involved.

My parents’ home was messy with stacks of books and papers.  They knew where everything was, and it was certainly livable (and clean!), but there was a very thin layer of papers on most surfaces. My mom loved a certain Chinese friend who would enter our home and survey the papers and smile with pleasure, “Ah, the home of a scholar!”.  It’s true, my parents were artists and scholars, and so was I.  Thus my eternal desire for order was confounded by both a lack of models and the inevitable mess that being an active artist and scholar creates.

I’ve started offering to host events and meetings at my home to ensure there is an incentive to regular housekeeping.  But the day my friend came over and created a gallery wall for me and told me I was OVER-organized, I realized that I feel deep down that if it can’t be perfect why bother trying (total violation of the Good Enough Philosophy!), and so I never do anything and have no energy to even tackle anything -I get almost no housework done in a day, I’m perennially exhausted and stressed by the mess.  Since my friend came, though, I’ve had so much more energy!!  The public areas of the house fell into perfect order in just a couple of days, and the mess is properly put away and organized, not just shifted to the private areas!! The private areas are next on my list!!

I’m not sure how long we will be able to keep this level of perfection up, but it’s an amazing feeling to have things starting to fall into place!!  After more than 5 years of upheaval, it’s ASTONISHINGLY freeing to look around the house and have order.  To be able to have people drop by without notice and they can have a welcoming space to walk in to.  My husband and I both love entertaining, and are so excited to have a space that allows for that!  I have more energy and a better outlook on life – I’ve been struggling with depression for the last few years, and a huge part of it was the damage caused by the first movers and the trauma of living in broken chaos for 2 years while we fought our way through the courts.  This really helps!  This is Good Enough living!!

So, if you are struggling between mess and order, consider inviting an organized friend over to help and advise. Sometimes you just need to find a way to break through so you can help yourself.  Mental illness is real and requires professional treatment – this is not dismissing that!!  However, when you are making yourself sick by something you hate in your personal life and/or surrounding environment, sometimes fixing it (or getting a friend to help you make serious progress) can dramatically improve things!  My friend spent only a couple of hours and only helped me lay out a gallery wall (something I couldn’t even conceive of despite having seen photos and advice on Pinterest), and hanging the art was such a minor, teeny tiny, little part of the mess, but OH MY GOODNESS what a tremendous difference it made!!!  All of sudden, the house went from looking like an unfinished house to a warm home and that’s what made all the difference.

I have to share with you my AH-MAZING gallery wall!!!  (Thank you SO MUCH, dear friend!!) (In her opinion, it’s still missing a small picture, but it’s more than Good Enough for me! 😉  ).  So looking forward now to hosting holiday parties!!

p1070957

More News…

I thought the chaos in my life would end once Expo was over, but of course it didn’t…

I’m very honored to announce that my application for a Fulbright scholarship to study the preservation of ethnic clothing through modern fashion design in Asia was accepted!!!  I’m officially a Fulbright Scholar!

Also, I finally had my wearable art coat, The Temptation of Eve, officially appraised, and am absolutely thrilled that it came back valued at $2500!!

eve-coat

Back to sewing…  The next project I’m working on will be a jacket (of course – that’s like 90% of what I sew!).  I found this really cute bold print fabric at IKEA:

teal-ikea-fabric

And for reasons unknown even to myself, I decided I simply HAD to make a jacket out of this…  Stay tuned for the blog post…

UPDATE! My Favorite Books…(Non-Fiction)

It seemed only fair that there be a companion post to my Favorite Fiction Book list… So here it is.  You will note that it is considerably shorter than my fiction list, not because I read less non-fiction or enjoy it less, but because non-fiction tends to be more about learning for me, and once I’ve learned something, I’m done with it unless I need a refresher.  Whereas fiction is about imagining new worlds for me, and so I’m never really done with a good fiction novel, because those worlds live on forever inside my mind, and sometimes I need to revisit them – just like revisiting your favorite friends and places in real life.

In no particular order:

I CAN’T BELIEVE I LEFT ONE MY FAVORITES OFF! : Third Culture Kids by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken

  • Survival of the Sickest by Dr. Sharon Moalam – about why some diseases have stayed with us since primitive times and what they offer the body in exchange….
  • Nurture Shock by Bronson and Merrymen – a meta-analysis of many child-rearing studies that show that almost everything you thought about child-raising is wrong (don’t get mad at me, that’s their claim!).  Talks about why lying is good, how to talk about race, videogames, discipline, and many other subjects.  Don’t be put off by the thick size! It is extensively annotated and has a huge bibliography and reference section, and each chapter is a stand-alone subject – so read in any order or just the topics of interest.
  • Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein – it’s dismissive and unfair to call this a feminist diatribe against Disney Princesses, but it is about how to raise strong daughters and how even the most careful parenting cannot protect your child from the negative messages of the outside world and popular culture and how to deal with that.
  • Noah’s Flood by Ryan and Pitman – an interesting look at the actual historical flood that occurred around the Mediterranean and how that led to the nearly-universal flood myth.
  • Gun, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond – a fascinating analysis of why Western Europeans achieved early global dominance over other cultures, and what led some cultures to succeed and thrive, and others to stagger and fail. (Spoiler alert, livestock plays a huge role in this!)
  • Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide by Maureen Down – a funny and relatable book about the struggles of the feminist movement, the difficulties smart women face in dating, (not man-bashing, just talking about the struggles between the sexes), etc.
  • Shattered Hopes, Magnificent Failure: The Road to the Nuclear Middle East by Mark Hertz – fascinating, well-researched, but very controversial, book on Israel’s foundation and threat of nuclear weapons in the region.

 

Have you read any of these?  Would love to hear what you thought of the book!

Got one to recommend?  Let me know!

Sew Expo and a Workshop with Stephanie Kimura!!

I know I’ve been AWOL for a month and a half, but I’ve been so busy trying to grow my business, and getting to do a workshop with author and designer Stephanie Kimura (a really delightful woman!), and teaching and getting ready to teach a half-day class at Sew Expo in Novi, MI at the end of September (on the subject of 3-D Quilting Techniques!!), AND studying for my LSAT exams!  That’s right… in addition to all the sewing and design stuff I’m doing (and will continue to do), I am applying for law school – with the intent of learning art-related law (intellectual property and small business) so I can help more artists!

Meanwhile, in Stephanie’s workshop we were supposed to make a little eye glass case… well, I decided that instead of folding my fabrics in half, I would leave them full size and make a larger (and for me, much more useful) purse.  So I used her kit inside and outside pieces as the front and back of my purse, but then was really stuck on what to do with the inside lining?!  I didn’t want to leave it as plain muslin with my seam allowances showing!  She had some pretty batiks for sale, but in turquoise, which wasn’t really what I was looking for…. LAZINESS TO THE RESCUE!!  I HAPPENED to have a large book of upholstery fabric swatches in my car that I hadn’t gotten around to taking out, and there just HAPPENED to be a Japanese embroidered koi design and complimentary solid in the book!!  So I cut those out and got really lucky – the paper backing peeled cleanly off with just a touch of the iron.  It left the fabric a little sticky, but since it was the lining, that was ok – it would just hold together better!  I also changed the construction of the purse a little, but I’m pretty happy with the results!  I will admit, stuffing the fabric into the channels of the snap-top frame was a @#$@% !!!  And this is why I don’t make purses….(I say as I work on the design of another purse for a magazine! Though this one DOES NOT use a top frame!)

I haven’t decided yet about straps, beading, and other embellishments, though I do HAPPEN to have some beautiful metal enamel antique-looking cherry blossom buttons which would make a gorgeous embellishment…

But here is the purse in its current state (try not to notice the smudge of dried glue on the red fabric inside where it meets the frame… we put glue in the channels then rammed that fabric up there until it held… it oozed a little…)

 

On Being AWESOME! – Revised

I had a bit of revelation last night that resulted in a vital perspective shift I would like to share for those of you who are in similar situations.

When you see a speck of lint float across your floor, it doesn’t bother you. It’s not threatening. Similarly, when anything happens in your life that is not threatening to you, you don’t react, or you react calmly. The only time you go in to “MUST DESTROY” mode is when there is something that terrifies you or threatens you on a fundamental level.

So for all of us who were in abusive relationships – whether with a toxic parent or partner, stop and think about this: They invested EFFORT into hurting us, into trying to break us, into controling us. They invested time, money, energy, into surpressing us. They didn’t bother doing that to every single person they ran into, they chose US. Why?

Because we are awesome, glorious, uncontrollable, and so far above and beyond their reach, that we scared them sh-less and became a threat to their personal narrative. You cannot surpress awesome forever, and we eventually broke free, but they will never be free of their constant need to supress threats and feed their personal (fake) narrative of power. And everytime someone breaks their control and leaves, it gets worse for them. We will go on to live our awesome lives, but they will be forever haunted by the little nagging voice in their head which gets louder and louder through the years, shouting at them how worthless and pathetic they are. So they look for awesome people to break, and tell those awesome people how worthless and pathetic THEY are, hoping that the awesome person will believe and that will silence the voice in their own head. But you can’t keep awesome down, and we will break free and it will rebound on them in shrieking waves.

Because we are awesome.

NOTES: As I shared this and discussed this, I realized there were a couple points that needed clarifying:

Breaking Free – I AM NOT saying this is a simple or even clear cut process.  Breaking free is always a PROCESS (not an instant act), often a slow one, it is never simple, direct, easy. You have to find and have faith in your awesomeness to cut those clinging tendrils.  This is not a change that happens all at once. But whether you find your awesome and leave, or leave because you can’t take it anymore and then slowly find your awesome as you heal, both processes are normal and valid. In fact, there is almost definitely going to be a lot of ups and downs – days when you’re Captain Awesome and days when you’re so depressed you can barely get out of bed. All of that is normal and ok. Hold on to the awesome and try to remember that you’re awesome, but be forgiving of the process and how slow it can be.

Making excuses for our abusers is one of the things we do to survive. You may reach the breaking point on your own, it may be a threat to your pet or child that does it, but you still has a long road of healing and finding you awesome ahead of you. A road that is sometimes so hard, you wonder if it isn’t easier to go back (studies show women leave their abusers an average of I think 3-4 times before they finally leave). The healing process can be awful and wretched. HOLD ON TO YOUR AWESOME TIGHTER – even if at first it’s just a note you read that you don’t believe. Remind yourself that you were awesome enough to upset someone, and you can never take awesome away. LOOK for your awesome – what do you for yourself and others that’s pretty cool? Sometimes that means, “I helped my friend with her new baby and did the laundry for her!” and sometimes that means “Even though I feel like crap and can barely move, I got myself up and ate food!” These are all wins. You are still alive, you are fighting to survive, you are awesome!!!

But I Don’t Believe In Myself – When you have endured an abusive relationship, you internalize a certain amount of that abuse and you suppress a lot of yourself so you can survive it. Cleaning that crap out and learning to not suppress can actually take YEARS!!! DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED!! You are still awesome, you just need to “detox”.

But My Abuser Was Abused Themselves, So I Feel Bad For Them –  The fact that they were abused is terrible and tragic and you can acknowledge that without it binding you.  THAT DOES NOT NEGATE OR EXCUSE THE EFFECT THEY HAVE ON OTHERS.  They may have been awesome and unable to break totally free, that doesn’t give them the right to try to squish the awesome out of their child/partner in retaliation and the child/partner has to know that it’s ok to break free and be awesome themselves – without shame or guilt or pain for their abuser’s toxicity.  Being hurt NEVER gives you the right to hurt others.  Knowing no other way ALSO DOES NOT GIVE YOU THAT RIGHT.

 

This part is so important, I will repeat it:

LOOK for your awesome – what do you for yourself and others that’s pretty cool? Sometimes that means, “I helped my friend with her new baby and did the laundry for her!” and sometimes that means “Even though I feel like crap and can barely move, I got myself up and ate food!” THESE ARE ALL WINS!! You are still alive, you are fighting to survive, you are awesome!!!

Introducing: The Giving Warmth Project

I am beginning a new project, and I would like to invite you all to join me!!  This is not exactly an art project, it’s a life project.

What is the Giving Warmth Project?

It’s a project to start giving warmth to the people in your life by sharing the truth about what you value about them.  Giving them a warm hug they can hold to their hearts on the days when they are cold.

Um…What?

At our wedding, people said some unbelievably awesome things about us and about how they felt about us.  While I will forever regret not having them in writing and that there is no video of this, I will hug their words to my heart for the rest of my life.

Shortly after that, a friend struggling with depression posted a public call asking for friends and family to write down what they valued about him so that he would have these notes to forever pull out and read when he was low.

And I started thinking about how much I needed those same notes, but was unable to ask for them (and people never say the same things they do with requests like that as they do at your wedding or funeral), and I thought about how much we all have a need for these kind of notes, but never get them.  So this year for my husband’s birthday, I asked people for notes for him.  And the notes were a fascinating blend of naked honesty and glossy self-protection that all nonetheless meant ‘I love you’ in some way.

I have always wondered why we go through life flinching back from raw honesty and saying simple “I love you” or “luv ya, bro” or the meaningful backslap half-hug that men often do, or all these other ways we have to convey love and affection without fully pulling back the veil and revealing not just our naked feelings but the SPECIFIC ways and whys we love someone.  Parents can easily relate to the feeling that while they may love their children equally, they love very specific DIFFERENT things about each child.  But if we ever do say these same things about the adults in our life, we wait until their weddings and stutter out a toast, or their funerals when we sob out a eulogy.

We are uncomfortable with emotion – our own or someone else’s, and while the extent of that discomfort varies by culture, family, and individual, nonetheless, we never say these things.

So why should we wait for funerals and weddings and hope that brilliance strikes, rather than taking a moment to compose a thoughtful – even if brief – note about what someone has meant in your life?  There are so many people who gave me a little lift whose timing just made so much difference in my life, I would like them to know that, and I would like to ask you to join me in telling the people in your life how they helped you or what they mean/meant to you.

I’m not really comfortable with saying this…

No one understands this better than I!  I don’t like exposing my emotions, being vulnerable, being PUBLIC with my feelings…  But this is not about being comfortable.  It’s about sending things out into the world without any expectation of anything, just to give someone a warmth that they can hug to their heart on days when they are coldest.

How will this work?

Set a goal for yourself, once a month? Once a quarter? to write a note – short or long, it can be an email, a snail mail card (I personally love the act of sending and receiving snail mail – especially in this electronic day!), posted publicly on social media, sent privately via PM, even a text – but it MUST be WRITTEN!!  – to a person who means or has meant something in your life or who got your back or stood by you when you needed it or tossed you a lifeline when you were drowning or whatever moment you cherish.  The person can be alive or dead, a current friend or an ex, someone you know in real life or someone you’ve never even met.

You expect nothing in return.  They may reply, they may not.  They may be really uncomfortable reading your note since we are afraid of honesty (please see parameters below!).

RULES ADDENDA:

The Giving Warmth Project is about creating warmth in the lives of others while they are still alive enough to enjoy it!  This is NOT a time to tell your ex how they ruined your life, confront others with what you don’t like about them, or use as an excuse to send creepy stalker messages.

Keep the tone light, warm, friendly (the reaction you ideally provoke is, “Awww, how sweet! I never knew they thought that!).  DO NOT be possessive, sexual, hysterical, or otherwise inappropriate.  If you are not sure if you are crossing that line, you probably are.

I encourage you to include a link to this post or just explain that you are participating in The Giving Warmth Project – it will help them understand why you sent it and that you expect nothing in return, and hopefully they will also participate!

I would love to hear what you do with this project!!

You can also join in on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/GivingWarmthProject/

My Favorite Books…(Fiction)

As a VORACIOUS reader and bibliophile, I am frequently asked for book recommendations and to share a list of my favorites.  While I always have suggestions, I have deferred on actually publicly listing my favorites because I feel a bit like a parent being asked to choose between my children and thus my compilation has remained a vague set of preferences in my mind – I have all these stories alive in my mind, and replay my favorite bits all the times, but confessing my favorites aloud….!!!

But, I have decided to write this, so here are my favorite fiction books.  You may note that several of them are children’s or young adult books… I still reread them actively, these are not just things from childhood that I’m saving for my kids someday.

SO, roughly in descending order of current favor:

  • Kim, by Rudyard Kipling
  • Oliver’s Travels, by Alan Plater
  • Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood
  • anything from Jennifer Crusie
  • The Venetian’s Wife, by Nick Bantock
  • Wintertide, by Megan Sybil Baker
  • Wisdom’s Daughter, by India Edghill
  • Shiva’s Fire, by Suzanne Fisher Staples
  • Pockets, by Jennifer Armstrong
  • the dragon series (Dealing with Dragons, Searching for Dragons, etc.) by Patricia Wrede
  • The Dot & The Line – a romance in lower mathematics, by Norton Juster
  • The Lost Prince, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • the Aunty Dimity detective series by Nancy Atherton (the stories are cute, but the writing sometimes annoys me)
  • House Husband, by Ad Hudler
  • Mistress of the Art of Death, by Arianna Franklin
  • Q & A, by Vikas Swarup (don’t “LIKE”, but absolutely riveting! Later made into the movie Slumdog Millionaire (which I haven’t seen. Read the book a few years before, could never then see the movie.))
  • select books by Piers Anthony (Death Rides A Pale Horse was immensely comforting after my father died, and his Gaia and Xanth series helped me deal with difficult teenage years)
  • The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun (also like the stories, but find the writing annoying sometimes)
  • A Quiver Full of Arrows, by Jeffrey Archer

 

I had been asked for a list of my top 10… I went into my office and started pulling books off the shelf, muttering to myself, “Oh yes, this has to be on the list! Oh and this too…” and somehow, as you can see, my list is a bit longer than 10 items before I was able to force myself to walk away….

I think this amply illustrates the problem I’d mentioned at the beginning…

Anyways, I would love to hear what your favorite books are, and what you think of any of mine if you read them!!

Letting Go…

As I sit here, surrounded by the chaos and detritus of my half-unpacked house, I am once again struggling to come to terms with the weight and hidden costs of ownership.  We may own our belongings, but our belongings also own us.

Like most of us, I have a closet full of clothes I don’t wear very often, and piles of magazines to read I may never get to, and so many other things that were bought or given to me that served a purpose in my life at one point.

Raised by thrifty parents, one of whom had grown up during the depression, I have to fight constantly to keep my balance between wisely thrifty and unhealthy frugality.  Unpacking the house, taps into one of those deep wells of emotion, as I struggle between my desire for a sparse house (made immeasurably worse by the fact that I’m an artist AND have 2 home-based businesses!!!) and my subconscious ingrained fear of poverty and not having enough and being wasteful.  Yes, I may have clothes in my closet I don’t want or like or wear, but at some point I will wear out the clothes I do like and then will have other clothes to wear and since they are not worn out it is WASTEFUL to get rid of them, SHAME, SHAME, SHAME!!!

Some of this can be ameliorated by my repeated reminders to myself that donating them to a charity can help somebody NOW and I can always buy new clothes when mine wear out (being fortunate in that way); but it’s SO much harder to do this with art supplies or shop inventory or office supplies, or any of the things that might not fill someone else’s basic need.  It’s even worse because charities don’t WANT all your crap, they only want the really good stuff and throw out the rest!  So there is a bunch of stuff that YOU have to throw out.

Yes, I have read a number of books on decluttering, but somehow feel they don’t speak to me or address my issues.  And so I wrestle alone with my desire to sell everything, not just throw out or give away (that’s my fear of being wasteful, and also poor again, talking!).  I consider selling on craigslist (which takes time, and effort, and generally THEY don’t want it either), or donating (which takes a little time and effort, and helps people – though you get no money), or finding a place to put it all (but I DON’T want it, there is no place for it) – and through all this runs the guilt, the fear of being wasteful, the fear of letting down the person who gave it to you (who you barely knew and has been dead for 7 years anyways), the fear that maybe someday I’ll need it again! (though I haven’t needed it in 20 years…), and the horrible realization that all this STUFF, this CRAP, that I can barely admit to myself that I don’t want and don’t care about, imposes an emotional toll on me.  It taxes me, psychologically, to look at it; it weighs on me in an almost tangible burden of needing to use it/find it a home/ JUSTIFY IT somehow.  And it clutters the house to an impossible extent, making it SO hard to clean up and get organized.  It is a well-known fact that a messy, cluttered, house makes us more anxious, depressed, stressed, and harder to relax in, to fall asleep in,  – and of course, to entertain in!  (how can we invite people over when the house looks like a bomb went off?!)

And so, my plan right now is to put all of this crap in the furnace room in the basement and get the house into semi-presentable shape NOW so I can breathe.  Then spend the rest of the year (I want to say 6 months, but let’s be realistic – this will be HARD) sorting through papers, giving things away, TRASHING things (the hardest thing in the world for me), and hopefully ring in the new year in a much emptier, much cleaner, much less cluttered, house!!!  WHO’S WITH ME?!

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