Could you go a year without junk food, mirror gazing or channel surfing? (My father, a voracious reader, went a decade without TV!) I've been reading about folks sacrificing these indulgences and it inspires me to challenge myself in some area.
My Number One New Year Resolution was to read more, at least one book a month, and so far I've been successful. I've read eleven. Considering the following survey done by the Jenkins Group, A Premier Publishing Services Firm, I feel pretty good:
1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
57 percent of new books are not read to completion.
70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance.
70 percent of the books published do not make a profit.
(Yikes. Not the greatest news for this blogger who is writing her first book!)
Wow. I love browsing bookstores. I love bedtime with my first grader on my lap in rocking chair, my arms circling his and giggles shared and curious boy questions asked. I love reading "I Spy" books with him, searching for that elusive key, thimble or rolling pin blending chameleon-like into the background. And nothing makes me smile more than watching his Daddy do the same. It's always a Kodak moment in my heart and nothing makes him more attractive in my eyes.
Because we want to instill in our little wordsmith a lifetime love of reading, we make an effort to unwind nightly with a book. I also feel it's important to model this behavior by becoming a lover of books myself.
As my Need-to-Read book list grows long enough to keep my eyes darting for decades, I discovered another area I want to challenge myself: decluttering. Yes, I am a clutter bug and it's an area I've struggled with for years.
My decluttering process began with my purse. I bought myself a beautiful handbag and every evening I clean it out, so I'm not carrying excess baggage. (Now I no longer lean when I walk from the bowling ball dragging my shoulder.) Next I tackled my SUV. I spent four hours detailing it in June and so far I've kept it clutter-free, juice stain-free and~almost~Cherrios-free. It's amazing how in control I feel of my life now, just from driving a cleaner car and having an organized purse! These accomplishments gave me the courage to tackle more challenging areas inside my home. My main struggle has always been the kitchen. Seems there's always dishes filling sink, clutter on counters and sticky pans, fridge shelves and stovetop. Well, guess what? This week we have all awakened to clean counters, empty sinks and a crumb-free stove. It's so refreshing! With each success I feel even more empowered! It's amazing.
A newfound energy has begun to fill my life. I believe my success conquering my clutter lately is directly related to my hard work this summer decluttering my heart. I cleaned out numerous cobwebs that had me enmeshed and weighed down. I needed to get unstuck and that meant clearing basement spiders before I could attack attic gossamers. I dared to lift that rug every dysfunctional home has lurking in the cellar, the one where sticky issues reside that always get swept under. Why was rug lifting necessary? Because feelings buried alive never die and denial is cancerous. I refuse to live in falsehood. I was also showing symptoms of anxiety, so I needed to grab spade and dig deeper. I had to uproot the root causing these symptoms. So I started connecting the dots as I hop scotched backward to childhood. As I did, I discovered the empty spots that were left blank, never crayoned in. I started to color outside the lines. I faced excruciating pain from my biological father abandoning me, being absent from my life for 20 years, and his subsequent suicide. I faced welts still scarring my heart from a leather belt beat against my flesh from someone who claimed to love me. I unlocked the door to face sexual abuse that lay in darkness for decades. It was brutal, but necessary for me to take control of my life. A life that involved repressed childhood feelings of betrayal, abandonment, neglect, fear, shame, rejection, violation, heartache, loneliness...
"I don't know why I'm telling you this. It's over. It's in the past, and the past is over."
"Except," Father John said, "it has a way of hanging around, demanding we understand it and weave it into ourselves so that we can go on."
THE EAGLE CATCHER, by Margaret Coel
"Those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it." - Sir Winston Churchill
"An unexamined life is not worth living." - Socrates
Looking back at the past allowed me to color in those empty pages to heal a child's broken heart. I needed to validate and acknowledge what was dismissed, deprived and denied. I began to grieve my lost childhood for the first time and it was hard, heart wrenching work. I shed tears for a little girl whose Daddy left her. I wept for an innocent child who endured torturous beatings from a rageaholic. I cried for a pre-teen exploited and used to satisfy an older person's lust. I sobbed for teenage years where more abuse occurred. My heart ached for that sweet, shy, insecure, girl without a voice, who learned at an early age to play by the rules and remain compliant, obedient and docile or else.
Maybe everyone would leave me like my Daddy did and abandon and reject me. But didn't the abuse mean I had already been rejected?
Too lofty a thought for a little girl to comprehend.
Or perhaps I did. Why else would I keep trying harder to earn the love that should have come freely, unconditional and without reserve? My reality became 'if others' needs come first, I must come last.' So I played the role and dressed the part assigned to me for too many years. Too many years. Too many years.
I remained silent because I was raised mute.
It took dissecting losses to locate vocals.
I'm glad I had the courage to dig and unearth the not-so-pretty-dirt swept under rugs. Now my life isn't so dark, grey and cobwebby. The spiders are gone. They will no longer bite. My heart has been reclaimed, restored and redeemed by a healthy love God instilled in me for myself. The broken pieces are becoming whole by His healing hand. Now I want my outer world to reflect my inner world and slowly it is. It's so exciting!!
Scars healed are life changing.
Scars healed are transforming.
Scars healed are the steps toward new beginnings.
And there's a little more spring in that step lately.
With every piece of clutter I unpack now I ask myself:
Is it bringing me joy?
Is it filling a need?
Has it benefited me in the last year?
Is it still useful in some way?
Does it make me smile?
Does it hold any true value?
Do I want it in my home?
Do I want it in my life?
If the answer is no, I need to question why it's taking up space, why I'm still holding onto it, and why it hasn't been thrown out with the rest of the refuse.
Maybe it's time to take a final look, release, then let it go once and for all.
Maybe it's time to say goodbye.
What unnecessary clutter is taking up space in your home or, more importantly, your heart?
Is it time for a clean sweep?
"I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Phil. 3:14
"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" 2 Cor. 5:17
"Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged." Colossians 3:21