Playing Dress Up

IMG_1066

Children love to play dress up. Many times you will find kids clomping around the house in your shoes, trying to wear your shirts or hat. They love to pretend to be different things. Adults like to play too. Look at Halloween coming up later this month. Children and adults alike seem to enjoy the fantasy that goes into pretending to be something you are not at Halloween. This is your chance to be an astronaut, a ballerina, a superhero, anything you want to be. It’s fun.

We do the same thing in our everyday lives not only with our clothing but also with our possessions. Look around. Do you have a family of 4, but place settings for 12 because you have always dreamed of being the one to host the big family holidays, with a house full of loved ones? If you do, and you actually are able to use those 12 place settings to achieve that family gathering, then that is great. You are living the dream. Do you have 12 places settings with a family of 4 and never use the 12 for the large gathering, but simply only 4 or perhaps 6? Now we are getting somewhere.

If they are not in use, you are probably keeping them just in case. Those place settings are representative of your fantasy self. You may not be play dress up pre se, but you are imagining a life of hosting gatherings that you are not actually living. How do those extra, unused place settings make you feel? Sad? Overwhelmed that they are taking up space in your cupboards and you have to move a stack of plates to get to your favorite mixing bowl?

Get rid of them.

That’s right. Get rid of them.

Whether it is extra plates, those 4-inch heels you bought to go with the power suit you never wear, or the sports equipment for an activity in which you never engage, get rid of it.

It’s hard. Often, we buy things for the way we want to see ourselves and not for the way we actually are. We buy that shirt because we think wearing it will make us look just as glamorous and appealing as the model in the magazine. We buy that piece of outdoor equipment because we think it will make us look sporty, just like the commercial. Are you living a life of a TV commercial? Or are these items just reminders of things you want to do but do not have time to do?

In an effort to minimize, or rewind, we need to let go of false selves. Get rid of the baggage. Yes, you may have dreams of hosting house parties every weekend, but is that actually happening? If you want to host parties, host them. If it is not a reality, then get rid of the baggage that is weighing you down.

It is much easier to live with the things that are useful and enhance our everyday existence. Why hold onto ice skates if they only remind you of the one time you used them and have never been on the ice again?

Simplifying items associated with fantasy selves is one manner in which we can simply our houses so that they contain what is useful, what is beautiful, and what is loved. A house containing only these items is easier to clean, holds more positive energy, and allows more opportunity to engage in the experiences and activities you truly enjoy.

For me, I am currently looking at my spare bedroom. I have a genuine guest room that is set up to host company for a weekend or a few days quite comfortably. I have always wanted to be one of those people that are able to have people over to visit – family and friends from out of town have a place to stay if they decide to visit the area. Do I ever host company in the way I envision? No. I live in an area mostly surrounded by cornfields and cows. You can see those pretty much anywhere outside of a city limits. No one visits me here. My spare bedroom is a form of my fantasy self that wants to be a hostess for out of town guests. Would that room be more useful for some other purpose? Could I give the bed and the other accompaniments to someone who is more in need of them? Could I empty that room entirely and save money by moving into a smaller living space?

We all love to play dress up. If you’re dressing up for Halloween, that’s fun. What ways in your everyday life are you pretending to live a fantasy life? Is this an area of your life you can simplify? Remember that we cannot take it with us when we go. When your relatives are going through your belongings after you pass, are they going to find a pair of skis and wonder, “I never knew (s) he skied?” Only keep things in your life that are useful, beautiful, or enhance your experience on the planet.

What fantasy self do you need to say adios to today?

The Best Summer

IMG_9497

Despite the still balmy temperatures we have in September, the leaves are starting to turn, the kids have returned to school, and summer is quietly sliding into fall. Summer 2015 is the best summer I have ever had in life. I do not remember a summer like this since 1988. I tried to think about why this is so and to isolate the commonalities that seemingly exist between two so disparate years.

In 1988, I was still a child. This was before I started working at age 14. While my childhood was nothing pretty and everything I have been trying to overcome as an adult, I distinctly remember the summer of 1988 as having a slight respite from the challenges through which I lived in my youth. I remember reading lots of books. I was in Virginia that summer, and the people with whom I was staying had a pool membership. When I was not in the pool, I was next to it reading. Those were the most carefree days of my life. Granted, my tastes have changed. I did not re-read Jurassic Park and all the other Michael Crichton novels this summer, but I actually had time for leisure reading; a rare treat as a grad student.

This summer, I had the gift of time. For the first time in my adult life, I have employment that actually allows me days off. Prior to my current position, I was always working 7 days a week between two or three jobs. The only time I ever got a day off was a holiday. Holidays were not really holidays, they were days to be home and get caught up on school and everything else in the middle of my 60 hour plus survival schedule. My current position gives me at least one day off per week, and often more. I had several days this summer where I had the day off and the freedom to recreate that feeling from 1988 of being free from responsibility and worry. I spent many days this summer at the various parks in the state, on the beaches reading, and doing some light surfing.

Beach days were not relaxing at first. I was so accustomed to the schedule of having to pack school into every free moment due to my work schedule, that my first few beach visits I took my school work with me. Then, as I started to realize my current employment situation allows me privileges I have never before experienced in life, I made a conscious decision that I would not take any schoolwork with me.

That’s where the magic begins.

Beach days became carefree and reminiscent of that childhood summer of 1988. I simply put some food in a cooler, grabbed a towel, a book, and some sunglasses, and off I went. The most “difficult” decision I had to make was which bathing suit to wear, and even that was not hard: wear the dry one that is in the closest reach.

This summer was great because it was probably the first time since I started working at age 14 that I actually had “holidays.” Now I know what the Europeans are talking about. I took off for beach days this summer without school, without work, and without worries. That has never happened for me before.

In some aspects, I feel I was able to reclaim some small portions of my childhood lost due to the difficulties I faced as a child and being forced to grow up way to soon to face them. I felt a little irresponsible “blowing things off” and taking beach days, but in reality, all my work and schoolwork was done, and my bills were paid, so really I was not blowing anything off, I was doing the best thing possible. I was taking care of myself. I was able to experience childhood delight that I never experienced as a child, and able to fully relax and be present in the moment in which I was living. It was one of the best things I have ever done.

As summer slowly changes to fall, I feel I am also losing that feeling. I feel I need to recreate it somehow, so that I do not lose the beauty of my summer beach days. What I am learning, as I rewind real slow, is that peace and relaxation may not necessarily be about your location (although beaches and crashing waves are very helpful), but rather a state of mind that says: “I am here. I am at peace.” Most importantly: “I am enough.”

I have gotten caught up in the whirlwind of fall. The anxiety of back to school (although my grad program runs continuously until its conclusion); it’s that Pavlovian response to the change in season. I find myself trying to jam pack my schedule again.

Then I realized that having the best summer of my life need not be an isolated incident. It is also possible to have the best fall of my life.

Now I’m putting on the breaks.

In the next few weeks, my goal is to refocus myself for a new season not only in weather, but also in life. I am going to remember to enjoy my days off. While I may not be spending them at the beach right now, I need to remember to not fill them with useless and unnecessary things. That beach feeling is something I can recreate in other ways. I just need to figure out how.

Do you get caught up in the fall whirlwind? Is this the time of year you pack your (or your child’s) schedule with activities, meetings, and things to do? Summer is not the only season for relaxing and joy. Fall can have the same feeling of peace if only we know how to find it.

As the breeze blows gently, I am enjoying a fall morning now on my deck with my coffee, and some radio. If this summer has taught me anything, I have learned that it is ok to just sit and be. Doing nothing is not necessarily lazy. Sometimes doing nothing helps to replenish us so that we may fully do something.

What ways are you learning to slow down this fall? Are there things that help you to feel relaxed in the middle of the bustle of back to school and new schedules? Times of transition are often stressful. This is the time when we need to take care of ourselves the most.

Take time to rewind real slow.