Recapping Balance and Striving for Peace

So much has been going through my mind since I published my last post.  Crystallizing the thoughts I shared with you earlier this month was a breakthrough for me and has created an opening for new breakthroughs.  I believe that this is the year when things will finally fall more into place for me after years of feeling stuck in the mire of my anxiety and discontent.  Granted, I still feel stuck in many ways, but I see a light at the end of the tunnel, a clearing for a new and better reality.

Peaceful La Playa view

Seeing a Clearing for a New and Better Reality…

Today’s post is another one I’ve been intending to write since the beginning of the year, but I wasn’t able to slow down and take the time to pull it all together.  These more introspective essays don’t necessarily take longer to write than the ones with lots of photos and numbers, but they are more difficult for me to complete.  I need to have the internal clarity in order to be able to express myself in a way that makes sense.  My brain has felt like a big jumble for quite a while now with so much inner noise that it’s been hard for me to relax or sleep.

Recapping My Theme for 2016

My theme for 2016 was balance.  In today’s post, I’ll share some insights on how I did with that theme and I let you know what my theme for 2017 is and why I chose it.  In preparation for writing this update, I went back and read all of my posts on balance from last year.  If any of you are interested in doing the same, here’s a list from January through my last update in August (on my 50th birthday!):

I’m glad I took the time to re-read all of the posts above, as it helped me to realize that I made more progress than I thought in terms of life balance.  The predominant feeling I felt when reading about my balance challenges was tiredness… fatigue.  It was just all too much!  I could feel the anxiety, stress, and overwhelm jumping off the page.  What I saw was a person making things harder for herself than they needed to be.  If I wasn’t reading my own thoughts and feelings, my advice to the writer would have been to slow down and let go.

Problems of Our Own Creation

So many of our problems are of our own creation.  We think we need to do certain things when in fact they aren’t really necessary at all.  Case in point, all of my information backlogs.  I would spend hours upon hours “catching up” on reading articles in Feedly, Pocket, and my browser tabs.  Before I cancelled all of my magazine subscriptions, I would also spend countless hours going through all of them and either reading articles or snipping them out to be read later.  I was so worried that I would potentially miss out on life-changing information if I didn’t read every single one of the articles that came into my apartment or my many data feeds.  Part of my great angst around Facebook was my deep concern that I wouldn’t be able to keep up.

Enough!  I don’t even want to keep up anymore.  Conversely, I want to opt out.   I don’t care to read every single article from every single blogger on my key areas of interest.  I don’t care if I see all of my friends’ Facebook updates.  I don’t care if I keep up with everything that’s going on in politics or the entertainment industry.  Knowing all of this information hasn’t made me happy and I realize that it never will.  I was well-informed but discontented and stressed out.

I chose balance as my word for 2016 because I knew at the core of my being that my life was out of balance.  I just had the wrong “prescription” in mind.   I thought that if I could somehow “catch up” and get well organized enough, I would feel “balanced.”  This is very similar to how I’ve approached my wardrobe for years now.  I tracked everything and obsessed about having the “perfect wardrobe.”  I thought that if I could curate an amazing wardrobe and be impeccably dressed each and every day, perhaps my ideal life would follow.  It didn’t… and it never will.

Like Clothes, Information is the “Booby Prize”

But when I really think about it, the prize which I sought was not to be either extremely well-informed or extremely well-dressed.  As I wrote in my last post, clothes are the booby prize.  So is information.  Sure, learning is important, just as dressing well and feeling comfortable and happy in our clothes is.  But these things aren’t all-important.  If we turn them into gods of a sort and pursue them above everything else, we will very likely feel out of balance, unhappy, and dissatisfied, just as I have for many years. However, since I didn’t realize that I didn’t truly need more information or more clothes, I continued to steadfastly pursue both of these things.  Hence, I was a proverbial hamster on a wheel and each day was much like the last.  And my mind remained unquiet, chaotic, and unfulfilled.

In my post announcing my balance theme last January, I wrote the following:

I didn’t need to ponder which word to select for this year much at all.  I instinctively knew that balance was exactly the right word to guide me in the coming year.  The only other word I even considered was peace, but after a bit of thought, I realized that if I can cultivate balance for myself, peace will inevitably follow.”

You may know what I’m going to say next…  I didn’t achieve either balance or peace last year.  Sure, I got rid of some backlogs, cut down on my Facebook time, and improved my time-management, and I’m happy about those changes.  I also had a big win earlier this year when I unsubscribed from all blogs and deleted the Feedly app from all of my devices.  I still look at some of the blogs occasionally, but I no longer feel beholden to them.  I no longer have “read blog posts” as an item on my to-do list.   That is freeing, just as it was to delete my “active sites” folder and the Pocket app and to discontinue all of my magazine subscriptions.   I no longer felt compelled to “keep up” and I didn’t really miss the information churn that was de rigeur for me for oh so many years.

Getting Off the Merry-Go-Round

Each of these changes I made gave me back a little piece of my life.  It has been like peeling an onion and it was empowering to take back my time and my life.  But there were always more lists to write and more action items to do.  Yes, tasks are part of life, but if we drive ourselves like unforgiving taskmasters, we’re not going to feel either balanced or peaceful.

I want to get off the merry-go-round. I feel that all of my driving myself has been an attempt to overcome my basic nature.  I have been beating myself up for not being successful in the traditional societal sense.   I don’t have an impressive job title, a handsome salary, or 2.5 amazing children to shout out my value and worth as a human being.  Because I didn’t have those things, I thought I had to be impressive in some other way.  I thought I had to look perfect, dress ultra-stylishly, and be extremely well-informed.  Well, “perfect” is an unachievable goal, style is a moving target, and information is never-ending.

I no longer want it all, I now just want enough.  Deep down, I know that I have enough, I know enough, and I AM enough right here, right now.  I don’t have to scurry along like a hamster on a wheel in order to prove my worthiness to others – or to myself.  I just want PEACE!   So peace is my word for 2017.  It is the only word I even considered and my only real goal, if you can call it that, for this year.  I’m not going to set out a bunch of milestones and objectives around peace, as that would be counterproductive, but I will tell you what I’ve been doing thus far to gain peace in my life.

Noticing, Pausing, and Honoring Myself

The very first thing I’ve done is start to notice and pause more often.  I have been tuning in to that discontented, inner “unrest” I so often feel when I’m not honoring myself, how I feel, what I want, and what’s best for me.   Here are a few scenarios:

  1. I’m on the phone with someone and I want to end the conversation. I usually keep talking anyway because I put others’ wants and needs first, but I don’t want to do that anymore.  Of course, if someone is in crisis, I will be there for them, but if we’ve talked for a long time and I feel the inner nudge to get off the phone, I want to start honoring that.
  2. It’s almost dark and I haven’t been outside all day, yet I have projects I need to finish up on. Instead of pushing myself to keep my nose to the grindstone, I have been choosing to get outside and go for a walk.  I may or may not come back to my computer afterwards, but it’s good for my body and soul to get outside while it’s still light.
  3. It’s the evening and I really just want to watch TV or a movie or read a book. However, I think of all the things I need to do and think I should go on the computer and knock some more tasks off my list.  I’ve started to remind myself that those tasks will be there the next day and most of them aren’t urgent (if they are, I of course do them).   I let myself do something I will enjoy.
  4. It’s late at night and I haven’t been on Facebook that day and I feel I should at least check in. I have been questioning that “obligation” and telling myself it’s okay to take a day – or even two or more – off.  Yes, I started my own private Facebook group and I enjoy many of the people and threads, but the group doesn’t hinge upon my participation.  I wouldn’t want anyone else there to feel obligated to participate and I don’t want to feel that way, either.

I’m questioning my previous behavior and honoring myself more.  I’m putting aside my worries about what others will think of me. Those worries are still there, but I’m not letting them dictate my behavior so much anymore.  I still stay up too late, but if I do something other than be on the computer, my mind is able to quiet down better.  I’ve also recently started meditating via the Headspace app.  Surprisingly, when the ten-minute guided meditation ends, I feel sad and wish it would continue longer.  I may opt to do longer meditations down the line, but I’m sticking with the shorter times for now and building the muscle of mindfulness.

I have a long way to go before I feel peaceful and I know it’s not something that anyone feels all the time, but I feel hope for a new reality.  Just as I don’t want to open my closet and see a wall of clothes so packed together that I can’t even see what I have, I also don’t want to have thoughts racing through my head at such breakneck speed that I can’t form a cogent paragraph anymore.  My clarity and creativity have been lost in a sea of confusion but I’m going to get them back, not by speeding up and doing more, but by slowing down and doing less.  And with that, I’m going to have dinner with my husband and watch a movie.  Email, Facebook, and everything else will be there tomorrow, and none of it is urgent anyway.

55 thoughts on “Recapping Balance and Striving for Peace

  1. Hi Debbie,
    Great post! Congrats for unsubscribing, pausing, waiting, and putting yourself first. Congrats for recognizing what isn’t urgent. Congrats for looking back and giving yourself credit for your progress.

    I have realized recently that I, too, feel awful when I set impossibly long task lists and don’t get everything done. I appreciate your wisdom that the answer is in fact doing less.

    I am starting to be able to feel like I can act on and voice more of my own needs, too. It feels exciting and even a little daring. I have practiced being assertive about what I like / dislike at my work; by renegotiating several commitments that were no longer fun; by sticking to my guns about not extending travel dates for an upcoming trip; and by advocating for some health care needs.

    • Thank you, cm. I think the “baby steps” we take can make a big difference, as we’re basically building up our assertiveness and self-care “muscles.” Good for you for taking positive steps at your job!

  2. Hooray! You’re on your way! (I didn’t mean to rhyme). It is my experience as a mental health professional, that we can be, and often are, our own worst enemies. Good on you for trying to break free. Most of us would benefit from doing less and tuning into ourselves more. Love your blog and feel privileged to have shared your journey of self discovery through your well thought out posts.

    • I appreciate your kind words and encouragement, Joanna. Yes, we can definitely be our worst enemies. I have known that about myself for a long time, but I mistakenly believed that if I drove myself harder, I would accomplish more. That only goes so far, as I not only rebel, I also miss out on life by focusing far more on doing than being.

  3. Your words make me so happy, too! I am applauding and celebrating you right now (my family is giving me a rather strange look, but pff, what do they know)! Big hug, I’ll write to you again soon.

    • Big hugs to you, too, CristiLu! I smiled when I read your comment. Funny that your family was giving you a strange look, but thanks for applauding and celebrating me!

  4. This is so powerful…

    “I want to get off the merry-go-round. I feel that all of my driving myself has been an attempt to overcome my basic nature. I have been beating myself up for not being successful in the traditional societal sense. I thought I had to look perfect, dress ultra-stylishly, and be extremely well-informed. Well, “perfect” is an unachievable goal, style is a moving target, and information is never-ending.”

    I feel like I need to print out that last sentence and glue it to my bathroom mirror!

    Let’s put together a laundry list of the amazing things you are, and have accomplished. I’ll start: you are a writer, with multiple published books under your belt. You have helped countless women with their shopping and wardrobe issues. You are a role model and inspiration to all of us!

    • Oh yes – nearly forgot – you have brought together a community of women, who are all working to let go of ‘perfect’ and exist in the belief ‘I am enough’. Incredible!

    • Thank you so much, Mary Beth. Your comments brought tears to my eyes upon reading and re-reading them. I know I don’t give myself enough credit. Those parental messages about what I need to do and be are so ingrained in my mind. While what I do may never be good enough for my father and others, it needs to be good enough for me. I never really wanted to be a mainstream person anyway. I’m glad to have found my “tribe” and I’m glad you’re a part of it.

      • Hi Debbie,

        I relate to your statement about parental messages. I wish I could say that parents are harsh on us for our own good. But let’s be honest, some people make crappy parents. As a person who had to grow up with unforgiving parents with extremely high standards (at least to me), it has taken a long time for me to forgive a childhood of sadness, anger and deprivation, especially now that I’m starting to realize it didn’t have to be that way.

        I blamed myself for never measuring up, never being good enough. But when I got therapy (CBT in my case because I don’t have the time or patience to sit on a couch for 10 years) I started to unwind that tight ball of fear. I’m not yet 100%, but I’m now in a better place.

        Looking forward to your journey, even if you don’t decide to blog about it. It might even be better not to. I’m not sure.

      • It seems like we had similar childhood experiences, Jane… I’ve had a lot of therapy, too, but not for a long time now. Perhaps I could benefit from more because it is like peeling an onion to get through some of this stuff. Regarding continuing blogging about my journey, I’m not sure, either. I can see benefits for both sides, but haven’t decided yet what to do. It’s all still evolving. I’m glad you are in a much better place now after the CBT. Maybe that would be a good route for me to go.

  5. Debbie–I am so proud of you, my favorite blogger! Keep up the serenity, but don’t make it a job. Go with your flow. I am smiling as I read and write. You are so human, caring, and honest–thank you for all you have given.

    • Thank you, Helen! I’m honored to be your favorite blogger. Good advice to not make serenity a job. I have a tendency to make everything a job and that takes the fun and joy out of it. I really appreciate your kind words and ongoing support.

    • This is very profound, Sarah. Yes, we all need to fill ourselves up before we can give, but we’re often told we’re selfish when we put ourselves first. Every time I tune in and ask myself what I need – and then give it to myself, I get a piece of myself back. And usually what I need is something so small that there’s really no reason why I shouldn’t give it to myself. It usually doesn’t cost any money, either, and can’t be found in a store. I appreciate your encouragement.

  6. This is coming from someone who’s career is in information management, healthcare-related, but still, 100% related to managing the endless information. It’s a great gig though that I am good at and get job satisfaction from…to a point. It’s certainly curbed me from seeking out information about other things non-healthcare / work-related meaning I hardly ever look at magazines, ebooks, Facebook, random blogs, youtube, etc. I quickly scan aggregate news feeds once every now ‘n then just to make sure there is not a hurricane headed my way or some other major crisis that might affect my commute or daily life, otherwise, I don’t click on individual stories or delve any deeper beyond the news headline. People warn me about doing that, telling me I will be uninformed, out-of-touch, behind everyone’s else’s knowledge of current events, etc. Yeah no. Hasn’t negatively affected me in the least. If anything it free’s me up from the constant barrage of negative news & hot button issues that only serve to rile up emotions and cause discourse between neighbors, colleagues, and those w/differing political viewpoints. I’ll have no part of that thankyouverymuch. I typically remain blissfully unaware of most attention-grabbing headline, must have beauty product, etc. and yet, I still, despite what the naysayers say, I toodle on thru my days just fine.
    I do still routinely watch some of my fav you tubers, read blogs, etc…but I don’t watch ALL their videos, or read ALL their posts, etc. It’s not personal, it’s just managing my time and interests. If a blogger chats it up about how to clean up baby puke, I’ll pass, as I don’t have kids. If a you-tuber has a video about some collaboration with some product company, I’ll skip that video as well. I like what products I got and use, and I don’t need additional input (or product envy) to muddle my current routine.
    Going back to my job though, while I enjoy it, I still have a nagging undercurrent of something just not quite right. Maybe everyone does this with their work, and maybe everyone ignores it or expects that feeling and it’s just a means to an end. But for me, the nagging feeling is relentless – almost like tinnitus. Yeah you can ignore it, but it’s still a ringing in one’s ears that won’t go away and can slowly drive you nuts. So one day I was watching a This Old House episode and they were focusing on a brick mason and how he was working with his hands, creating something from nothing, and having a tangible result at the end of the day. That stuck with me for the longest and then on a whim, I pulled into a local brick & stone mason shop and asked if I could apprentice on occasions at no cost to them. Just let me shadow and learn. They said hell yes. So I do, and man do I dig it. It gets me outside, doing something physical and not staring endlessly into healthcare records under fluorescent lighting. My hands are tougher and rougher than they were, my arm and back muscles are sore (but getting stronger), I sweat like I’ve never sweat before, I come home covered in stone dust, dirt, and mortar, but I feel like a million bucks. It’s tough work, it’s heavy, back-breaking, sweaty, and dirty, but it’s also incredibly satisfying, tangible and gives me an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. Will I quit my day job for this? I dunno, too soon to tell. I’d like to continue learning and apprenticing and maybe earn my contractors license and see what happens as it happens.
    The point of all this being – I didn’t get much peace, contentment, clarity, etc when what I mostly did was with both work and my free-time was take in random or force-fed information. I just felt like crap when I realized I didn’t have the latest skincare cure-all, or didn’t have shiplap walls. Reading about world terrorism, human indignation, political discourse, sensational news only depressed me and wore me down. But getting out and using my hands to build something, sweating not because I’m menopausal, but because I’m freaking working hard, building incredible strength in my 50-year old body, learning a skilled craft, and stepping outside my privileged indoor a/c environment has done more for my soul, self-confidence, self-pride, and character than anything else I’ve done in as long as I can remember. It’s weird I’ll grant you that, but even when I’m crawling home sore, beat all to hell, covered in mortar and dust, I haven’t felt as happy, accomplished, and proud of myself as I am right now. -Jane

    • I loved reading your comment, Jane, and I thank you for being so open here. Sometimes what will fill our souls is so counter-intuitive. I really comment you for following your inner nudge to explore the masonry. I smiled when I read about the positive impact it’s had on you. Your comment exemplified that we’re never too old to explore new paths and change course. You and I are the same age, yet I tell myself I “missed the boat” and squandered years and opportunities away. But that isn’t objectively true. I think that as I quiet my mind and trust myself more, an inner nudge like the one you got will come to me. When that happens, I will remember your story and follow it. Best wishes to you!

      • Sorry, another long response:
        The way I looked at turning 50 (which was last August) was whew, thank goodness I am in a safe place, with home and job security, a good husband, and in good health, so I’ll just keep on keeping on staying in my lane, not making any waves, not giving any cause to be disruptive or upsetting my good thing. I should be content with what I have done / am doing and I best not do anything or make any big changes in my existing routines so not to disrupt or jeopardize this good and safe thing. I’ll just continue on living out my next 50 years safe in my lane. The end.

        I do admit I got things good, but that didn’t mean I was necessarily (or automatically) happy. Anyways, shortly after I turned 50, I decided to figure out why I wasn’t automatically happy and content. I knew the answer wouldn’t be found in a prescription bottle, thru mediative sessions or yoga, thru a counselor, by counting my blessings or getting confirmation from my friends or family. I knew was that I was the only person who could answer my own questions. So, I got out a new 5-section spiral notepad (i knew I was gonna need a big notepad) and started asking myself questions. Simple questions like “am I happy”. yes or no. No? Why? Then I asked why to that question, then so on and so on. I just kept asking away and answering myself as clearly and succinctly as I could until I got down to some hard facts, recurring themes, etc. This was not easy to do as I was not easy on myself. I went at myself like a defense attorney would. I addressed some long-standing issues that I had tried to push aside from my past, faced up to wrongs done to me, and wrongs I’ve done to others, lies I’ve told, etc. This notepad could be damning if in the wrong hands, but I filled it up enough to need a second one, but I got EVERYTHING out that I had trapped in my head all these years. This was cathartic and insightful yes, but also VERY VERY painful, embarrassing, humiliating, and all around horrible. I don’t recommend this to the weak of heart, or anyone who can’t be honest with themselves ’cause you’re gonna see in writing your worst attributes, your evils, your lies, your fears, shortcomings, etc.

        But holy heaven, did it do me wonders. It cleared out the mental clutter. It let me see what doesn’t matter to me, what truly does, what bad characteristics I have that I need to consciously fix and own up to, what I needed to let go of, what was holding my back and/or down, what my fears were and why I fearing these things, etc. It took me about a solid 2 weeks of filling up this notepad and I was exhausted from it. But it’s over now. I survived. I came out the other side with answers. I let go of long-standing grudges. I made a ton of changes in my everyday life (stop following trends, unsub from sales emails, stopped keeping up w/everyone else, decluttered the hell outta my home, stopped talking to certain people etc) that were bringing me down or were a negative in some way or another.

        No, I haven’t reached some nirvana phase or am of perfectly clear mind, but I am happy now ’cause I now know what truly brings me happiness. Also, because I’m no longer ruminating on the past or looking over my shoulder fearing some part of my past might show up and ruin my present. I fessed up to stuff I had done, and let go of past grudges, wrongs, etc that had a vice grip on me all these years. I got a lot of self-peace with those notebooks. Even more so, when I burned them. Whew!

        My long-winded point being – I had been hiding under proverbial rocks about some things, shamed about some things, angry about others, saddened about others, and so. All that clouded my judgement, self-opinion, what I truly value and care about, what I don’t care about, all of which made happiness hard to recognize ad made my risk averse. It also made it easier to get out of my lane and try something weird and new, like brick masonry. I’m not gonna play it safe just cause I’m over 50. I need to try new stuff even if it hurts, gives me blisters and has me hauling bricks around dirty worksites every Friday. I’d also like to apprentice with glass blowers one day too and I probably will. We’ll also probably relocate just for a change one day too. I just don’t want to find myself 10 years from now still in the safe lane looking back at 10 years I just wasted doing nothing new stewing about being unhappy.

        Things I ain’t got time for anymore: Not letting me be me.

      • Wow, we must be almost exactly the same age, Jane, as I turned 50 in August, too (the 8th)! I love how you asked yourself all of those hard questions and answered them. That’s so proactive! Perhaps I could benefit from doing something like that as well. I have grown a lot through blogging, but not everything should be shared in a public forum. I really applaud you for doing the hard work that it took to get to a much better place. I smiled when I read that you burned the notebooks. Probably a good idea because you didn’t need all of that stuff anymore anyway!

        You are a true testament to the fact that we can change at any age and that it’s not too late to try new things and take chances. Good for you for putting yourself out there with brick masonry and glass blowing (in the future). The sentence that really hit me in your second comment was this one:

        “I just don’t want to find myself 10 years from now still in the safe lane looking back at 10 years I just wasted doing nothing new stewing about being unhappy.”

        I don’t want that, either, and I fear it deeply. I know I’m the only one who can change me. I don’t have control over everything, like I haven’t been able to restore my health, but I don’t have to be complacent and just let time pass by. Your story has made me think. I don’t have time for not letting me be me anymore, either!

      • Haha! I’m August 1st! That’s so cool! A fellow ’66 Leo!

        Yeah I tell ya, I have been care and feeding old issues, dragging around baggage of yore, and holding onto anger from mis-deeds done unto me for literally DECADES! On the surface I looked pretty chill, but below the surface – a hot depressed mess. Hair-trigger angry (especially when driving), prone to bouts of “why me’s”, more apt to notice faults in others (which I thought was making me look better <–flawed logic no doubt), sarcastic, bitchy, and negative when I really didn't have to or need to, it just became my default setting. The thing was though, at the exact moment I was up on my high horse, my reactions and behaviors made perfect sense. However a few hours later after rehashing the whole thing in my head, did I realize what a tool I was, then I felt that much worse about me as a person and what I must look like to others. But I'd do the same thing yet again, and again, and again. More grief, more embarrassment, more crotchety and cantankerous.

        But the few weeks before I turned 50, I started to get a bit more introspective and got super concerned that I was only going to get worse if I didn't make some changes. By worse I mean I was turning into a bitter, angry old bat with no chance of parole. That kinda life doesn't just happen – it's honed, reinforced, nurtured, and made to happen…by my own actions and attitude. So when I decided to figure out how to "fix" this, I came up with the writing it all out (not typing, but actual writing) 'cause knowledge flows thru the end of a pen. I already keep a super detailed to-do list in order to get my to-do's outta my head and onto paper, which in turn free's up brain space and processing power to not worry or fret over that stuff, so why not do the same thing with my old baggage, resentments, mis-givings, etc. Get all that outta my head and onto tangible paper and mark thru it when I complete the task just like a to-do list. I made my mind up that if I was gonna do this, it wasn't going to be for funsies or some half-ass thing that I would abandon when it got rough…if I was gonna do this – I was gonna do this. Put all my cards on the table. Just like Marie Kondo has you do…throw everything in a big ass pile and get rid of everything that doesn't spark joy.

        So I started writing and let the words take me where ever they led. It was frenetic, spastic, and had no rhyme or reason in how it came outta my head and onto paper, but it did. It was awful though, truly horrible, but like Churchill said "if you are going through Hell, keep going". The only thing I asked of myself was to be wicked honest with myself – once and for all. No added embellishment to play up the drama, and no down-playing my own wrong-doings. Just get it ALL out there once and for all.

        After I filled out my notebooks did I realize that I didn't gain anything from carrying that mental crap around. What was I planning on doing with all that grief? Saving it up for some great occasion? Use it to one up someone else in a woe-is-me contest? Planning to unleash it all on those who've wronged me in a Thor-like manner? Remembering it so I don't forget? Why the hell would I want to remember stuff I'd rather forget about? It made no sense. In fact a lot of what I had been doing made no sense and did not spark joy either!

        Some things I took away from this was to chuck the whole ridiculous notion that to reach some manner of peace, I must forgive those who have wronged me. 'Ta hell with that. I don't NEED to forgive the actions of others in order to move on. Facts: X wronged me. X was wrong. X is an ass. I won't ever allow X to wrong me again. Line through that to-do. Done.

        I also learned that I have zero desire to face certain people and ask them "why". Truly it's pointless. They might not answer for one thing and even if they did, they might lie. They can't give me closure. Their answers most likely won't give me any closure. I give me closure and that's the best version anyways.

        For wrongs I done to others, well I could seek them out and ask for forgiveness, but if our paths ever cross, I most likely would do that. But I'm not seeking them out to do that. I told them I was sorry in my notebook. Good is good enough. If old lies I've told do come up in conversation ever again, and the option is to continue the lie or fess up to it – then I'll fess up to it. Since my notebook experiment, I told my husband that I've lied about some things to him (hiding purchases, and embellishing some stories to make me sound "better") and asked him for his forgiveness. He didn't ask what I lied about or had embellished, he was just impressed that I owned up to the fact. That felt like the weight of the world was off my shoulders.

        Also, people say, everything from one's past makes them who they are today, but really? Or does hanging on to all that made me who I am today? For myself, I concluded it was the latter. I made me miserable by hanging on to past digressions. Woe is Jane. Well damn. I just wasted a significant portion of my first 50 years hanging onto woe. How's that working for me? Yeah, not so good. Enough is enough. The "X's" of my past are just that…X's of my past. The past. The only way it get's in my present or future is if I allow it. I don't allow it. (See above about "I won't ever allow X to wrong me again"). I'm a grown-ass woman now. I an not about to let someone walk all over me now or tear me down. I won't allow it. My husband certainly wouldn't idly stand by and let that happen to me either. So between us two – we are a pair of superhero's who've got each others back. Take that X's!

        I'm not of the mindset that I "deserve" a happy life with my next 50 years, I am of the mindset that I am gonna have a happy life for my next 50 years. Obviously keeping skeletons in my proverbial closet the first half-century wasn't sparking joy, so I chucked it all. I FINALLY realized that my past is just simply not that important, necessary or vital to my present and future. It was really that easy. Well after the hell of writing through it all subsided that is. I sure don't claim to have all the answers, but I gotta say, I'm at a much much better place than I was before I turned 50 and before I filled out my notebooks. I just needed to see it all on paper, outside of my head, in black and white. I could then logically work through thru it as the situation played out until I came up with a resolution, a solution, a dismissal etc. I didn't have to pay a shrink, try to hold tree-pose until I gained aura-like clarity, or resort to RX's. I just doctor heal thyself'ed with a couple of Mead spiral notebooks.

        I guess I'm telling you all this 'cause it all sounds a bit similar, sure the backgrounds are different, the
        events, the players, etc…but your need to find clarity has a lot of similarities to mine on some levels and maybe my notebook method might be useful to you. Heck the fact that we are just a week apart in age, have no kids, both stopped dying our hair, and both have had big time $$$ issues w/clothing is
        strikingly similar as is! -Jane

      • Jane, for some reason I can’t reply to your latest comment but just wanted to say that these are the best, most helpful comments I think I’ve ever read. What you’ve done with the notebooks and masonry is so very impressive. You seem like a really amazing person. I wish you the best!

      • LOL, I should confess that the REAL reason I am learning masonry is a long-standing desire to have an outdoor wood-burning brick (pizza) oven. Also I’m indoors a lot. Well the husband and I do walk about 45 minutes every day, but more than not, I’m indoors. But like my Grandma said “nothing sanitizes like the sun”. I do try to keep sunscreen on & mind my exposed skin, but there’s something about being outside, and being outside my usual suburban wife-life that truly sanitizes the soul.

        Plus a little hard work has done wonders for both wearing me out & building me up at the same time. Doing yoga or doing pilates just never did it for me, it was boring as all get out, and honestly, irked me to no end. But stepping waaay way WAY out of my usual and customary comfort zone, using my hands to help build something from nothing, learning something new and weird, and finding value in a trade with inherent craftsmanship, has given me renewed energy and purpose.

        Also, I was perilously close to being set in my ways, but if I gave up on me or waited for some outside entity to force me into making a change (of which I would be super resentful about), then essentially my life was on auto-pilot, which meant I had succumbed to letting fate run (and rule) my life. Slogging along doing the same thing, day in day out, Groundhog Day’ing it, staying in my lane, hoping to stay healthy more than not, watch tv, buy crap online, wallow in my past, indulge in the occasional vacation. Rinse, repeat. Ugh. I already look back on my previous 10 years and feel like I pissed those years away doing mostly, well nothing.

        Maybe I’m feeling my mortality since turning 50, which is good, ’cause maybe that’s just the reality slap I needed to quit under-estimating myself, my options, and my abilities. I feel like a lot of people view 50 as being the pinnacle of which they start heading down the other side of the mountain, thus descending into old age, declining health, sedentary days, doctor visits, “back in my day” rants, etc.

        I was in that mindset as I was approaching 50, but after konmari’ing my brain clutter, I realized that that is not what I want for myself. I’ve already wasted a lot of my life wallowing in the past, sniveling about woe is me, waiting for a better tomorrow, hoping for a better next year, etc. The thing is, the tomorrows and next years are getting less and less.

        What I needed for me was to sling open the proverbial curtains, stop living vicariously through bloggers (excluding Debbie ’cause her website has truly been cathartic for me), get off my arse, stop pacifying myself with buying clothing and beauty products, konmari the house, konmari my head, stop carrying around the baggage of my past, and to quote the snow movie – just let it go. Fill out my notebook, then set it ablaze. A Viking funeral of sorts. Be done with yesterday. Just let it go man. What’s the worst that could happen? I go on to have a fun happy life?

        And while I’m on a roll here…for those who get their jolly’s in saying “If you don’t know your past, you won’t know your future” or “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it”. Yeah that’s on them. I’m done subscribing that skewed logic. My past boogered up a lot of my “present” and “future”, but enough is enough. Those folks who stand by that kind of thinking can kindly show themselves to the door.

        Also, it’s kinda worth mentioning this (seeing how Debbie’s site is about recovering shopaholics), but when I worked through my mental clutter in my notebooks, did my shopping problem work itself out without me having to do much of anything about it. It just stopped, and it’s been an absolute relief, like waking up from a nightmare and realizing it’s over. For me, shopping was a symptom of my general unhappiness, isolation, boredom, self-esteem issues, lack of direction, and longing to “fit in”. Once I wrote out all my mental clutter, it changed my brain for the better.

        I certainly didn’t mean to hijack the comment section, but I kinda feel like my experience isn’t so obtuse or exceptional even, and might even be of some value to others. Lord knows, I spent a lot (and I mean a lot) of time (years) contemplating doing something else, changing, etc only to not really. I read a bunch of self-help stuff and would get kinda pumped up, sorta, for a brief amount of time, only to go right back to the same old same old. But until I dumped ALL the clutter in my head onto paper in a notebook experiment and put it ALL out there for once and for all and faced it, fessed up to it and took it on by myself and for myself, was I able to FINALLY let it go. I might have been a victim of circumstances in the past, but continuing to be play the victim role was all on me and all of my own doing, like trying to strangle myself with my own hands. Sounds a bit ridiculous, but that’s basically the gist of what is was doing. Anyways, working it out in my notebooks wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t easy, but it was the BEST thing I have ever done for and to myself. Hope this helps!

      • I agree with Emmy that you’re an amazing person, Jane. I have been so fascinated to read your comments here and I find you to be both inspiring and also quite funny. We DO have a lot in common and it’s so interesting that we are only a week apart in age! It would be wonderful to meet you one day.

        I have SO much I could say about what you wrote and I hope a lot of others read what you have had to say here, as there is so much wisdom in what you wrote! When you said you used the to-do list philosophy to get all of your old “stuff” out of your head, it really resonated with me because I also write long t0-do lists to get things out of my head. I also love the idea of “KonMari’ing” the brain and not allowing our past into our present and our future. I don’t want to keep “skeletons” that don’t spark joy, but I realize I have been doing just that in some respects. I’m ready to let it all go, as you have!

        I’m actually not surprised that your shopping problem stopped after you did your notebook exercise, as you got to the root of the problem:

        “For me, shopping was a symptom of my general unhappiness, isolation, boredom, self-esteem issues, lack of direction, and longing to “fit in”. Once I wrote out all my mental clutter, it changed my brain for the better.”

        Shopping has been a symptom of the SAME things for me and it probably is for many of us. Writing about these issues in this blog has been helpful to me, but I have gotten off-course as a result of the trolls and critics who have showed up here. It’s made me more hesitant to be as open and revealing about my thoughts and my life as I had been previously. It was easier to focus on my wardrobe, but my clothes and shopping are symptoms, not the real problem, as you well know.

        You wrote about making short-term changes and then going back to the same old, same old, like your own personal version of Groundhog Day. You also mentioned living on autopilot and “pissing your life away.” Boy did that resonate for me. I talk about feeling “comfortably numb,” but that’s not how I want to feel. I want more and I’m not too old or too sick to have that.

        I think your notebook exercise or perhaps my own spin on it could be helpful for me. I’ve had a lot of therapy in my life and have been to a number of personal growth workshops, including ones that have long hours and last for many days, some of which were in exotic locations. But that was all back in my 20’s and 30’s, which was a long time ago. I have fallen into major complacency since that time and that’s not what I want for my life. What you wrote about turning 50 really hit me:

        “Maybe I’m feeling my mortality since turning 50, which is good, ’cause maybe that’s just the reality slap I needed to quit under-estimating myself, my options, and my abilities. I feel like a lot of people view 50 as being the pinnacle of which they start heading down the other side of the mountain, thus descending into old age, declining health, sedentary days, doctor visits, “back in my day” rants, etc.”

        THIS!!! I am feeling that same reality slap and I need to tap into all of the courage that’s within me NOT to be like those people you describe. That’s no way to live and shopping myself into oblivion is no way to live, either.

        Thank you so much for sharing so intimately about yourself and your experience. It meant a lot to me and I know that a lot of people read here and never comment (when I did a reader survey, about half of the respondents said they read the comments) and I’m sure you have touched them, too. Best wishes to you always, my kindred spirit and fellow 1966 Leo. Sending you a big virtual hug and lots of appreciation.

  7. Hi Debbie,
    I loved this post but then I typically love all your posts. You see light at the end of your tunnel and I wanted to tell you that YOU are often a light for me. Thanks so much.

    • I’m very happy to be a light for you, Jan. I’m glad you liked this post and others. Wishing you always a light at the end of the tunnel!

  8. If we live well, charm doesn’t fade, wit doesn’t age, and knowledge is still priceless. Every year we become a year’s worth better, smarter, and wiser. Debbie, you have arrived! May beauty surround you.

    • I always love what you have to say, Terra. This comment is so positive and uplifting and I appreciate your kind wishes. Thanks you for your ongoing support and I wish for beauty to always surround you, too!

  9. Gosh, I’ve had these exact same sentiments, but I didn’t have the skills to put them quite so clearly. While I have worked on peace within myself, I’m not 100%.

    You mentioned noticing, pausing and honoring yourself. This is still a real struggle for me too, even though I have worked on this. It’s the whole problem of being “nice.” In my case, I really think it’s because I came from a background of constant parental fighting. My parents were so busy at each other’s throats and always angry at us kids that I vowed I would never put others through what I had to go through. But while I didn’t end up putting others through what I went through, I also never got the skills to deal with even the smallest conflict, like someone wants something that I don’t want, that sort of thing. I had to go through therapy (in my case cognitive behavioral therapy books from the library) to make any headway. Still not 100%, but vastly better than I was.

    I look forward to seeing how you end up going about this year’s goal.

    • I’m so sorry you had to endure a childhood like that, Jane. Kudos to you for vowing never to put anyone else through the hell your parents put you through. I struggle a lot with conflict, too, and I have a hard time feeling like anyone is ever upset with me or mad at me. Yes, I have that whole problem of being “nice,” too, and it’s an insidious one. It leads us to put ourselves last in the interest of pleasing and appeasing others and it can be a major recipe for unhappiness! I’m glad you have made some great headway on positive changes and I wish you more of the same. Conflict will probably never been comfortable or fun for us, but hopefully we will be better equipped to deal with it so we can better take care of our own needs.

  10. Hi Debbie. Lovely heartwarming post. I think Peace is a wonderful choice. I realise Peace is what I have been aiming towards. Despite life events being challenging I don’t think I have ever felt such peace. I have achieved this by simplifying my life dramatically. I elimated unnecessary homeware, food and clothing. My home feels so serene and uncluttered and that helps my mindset. I have stopped being so hard on myself and have appreciated how well I am actually doing. Being a perfectionist and forcing myself to live in such a controlled way can be exhausting. I cant change my fundamental being but I can harness it to work with me instead of against me. I love beautiful things & will always have an acquisatory nature but my shopping is less impulsive, more thought out and regretful purchases are becoming less. There is peace to be had in obtaining a well made, beautiful item that enriches your life, rather than the guilt associated with my former compulsive shopping habit.

    • Thank you for sharing the positive effects of simplifying your life, Sharon. I got a true sense of serenity reading your comment and I’m happy for you for these wonderful changes you’ve made. I know all too well how exhausting it can be to be a perfectionist and I don’t want to be like that anymore. I think I understand so much better the negative impacts of my longstanding way of being. It’s time to change like you have. I wish you all the best, as always.

  11. Congratulations Debbie. After hitting a real low you seem to have broken through into a really positive place. It’s a big leap forward to let go of the treadmill of trying to keep up with the fantasy of achievement and perfection, but will be well worth it, and it will get easier with age.

    • Thank you, Lynn. I heard from many people about the positive shifts that occur in the 50’s. I didn’t feel any of it right away, but now that it’s 6 months after my 50th birthday, I’m changing for the better and very happy for it. I have a long way to go, but it feels great to see more light at the end of the tunnel now.

  12. Wow! You are a very powerful writer Debbie and your journey has rocketed forwards in the last few months. I’m on a different journey but often I notice your more introspective posts affecting how I see things. I certainly hope this one will. We all need more peace. I certainly did today. Good reminder. Thank you

    • Thank you so much, Melody! I’m very pleased that my posts have affected you even if we are on very different paths. Yes, we all need more peace and I wish that for you.

  13. You mentioned shifts happening in one’s 50’s, and I realize that is true for me, too. I am now 70 and living peacefully uncluttered, and it did come about in my mid or late 50’s. I was alone one night when my husband was on a trip and began cleaning the apt. like a mad woman in the middle of the night. I continued one or two other nights till everything seemed okay to own and accountable by my standards. Along with the clear-out came mental/emotional clearing attached to some of those items. We have retired and moved twice since then and donated more unwanted things, and now it is just right around here. You are all right: it is not too late to start because you will better enjoy the future. I never faced clutter–although mine was not what anyone else called cluttered–till I was retired and home enough to feel it. If only I’d done a book, I’d be Helen Kondo!
    Don’t think 50 is old, folks. That’s only going to lead to trouble. Once you organize your possessions and freshen your mind, you will feel energized not to over shop, not to feel defeated. I am happily volunteering in a school and enjoying being a wife who rediscovered her husband and dotes on grandkids. Best to all of you trying to live a good and happy life.

    • Thank you for sharing more of your story with us here, Helen. I smiled reading about your cleaning the apartment in the middle of the night (and I chuckled at your “Helen Kondo” comment). It sounds like something I would do 🙂 There is a lot of emotion attached to our stuff, so it’s never just about the stuff. We release more than our possessions when we are ready to let go. I’m getting more and more comfortable with living with less and I actually went through my “holding zone” of clothes on Monday and designated 30 more items to pass on. It was a lot easier to do it than it used to be, too.

      You’re right that 50 isn’t old and it’s a trap for us to think that. I need to slap myself (maybe just metaphorically) anytime I ever think that, as it’s a very dangerous and limiting belief. It sounds like you have a peaceful and happy life and I’m very pleased for you. Thank you for your inspirational and good wishes for all of us who are striving for more peace and contentment.

  14. What a great post, Debbie! So much of it resonated very strongly with me. Thank you!

    Wishing you lots of peace and tranquility in 2017!

    • I’m happy this post resonated with you, Izeve. Thank you for your positive wishes. I wish you an amazingly happy and peaceful year, too!

  15. What a great post and a great theme. I really respect you honesty and insights.
    Sending you warm waves of peaceful thoughts.
    So happy that you have found Headspace!

    • Good to see you comment here, FrugalFashionista! Yes, Headspace is great. I’ve only done the free meditations thus far, but I plan to subscribe soon to take advantage of more of what it has to offer. My thoughts are still pretty out of control, but sometimes I get a glimpse of peace in there and it’s encouraging. Thanks for your support! Sending you warm wishes, too.

  16. good post! I did Sunday school today (Jr. High kids) and we talked about Lent and what we might sacrifice. They all popped up volunteering to eliminate sweets. Then I said, “what about giving uo your phones?” A yelp of pain at that idea! Getting ourselves un tied to “screens” is really hard.

    I got a Fitbit for my birthday. I am pretty active so I didn’t really think I needed one, but it was a gift so i strapped it on. It buzzs me every hour between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. if I haven’t been active 2 minutes. It’s a good reminder. It never hurts to feed your brain some oxygen.

    Take care –

    • I love the Sunday school story, Ginger! As difficult as it is to give up sweets for many people, it would be far harder to give up our phones, but I’m sure it would be quite enlightening and empowering to do so. I didn’t realize the Fitbit had that feature. It’s always good to take a break from our computers and whatever we’re doing to move our bodies a bit. I hope you get a lot out of having the Fitbit. I don’t personally have one, but definitely see the value and may want to get one at one point. Belated Happy Birthday to you!

    • Thank you so much, Claire. I’m sending you love and peace, too. We are kindred spirits in many ways and I’m very happy we got to have that wonderful long conversation last year. It would be great to connect again, but in the meantime, I wish you all the very best. Thank you so much for your support!

      • Aw, thanks Debbie, and yes I would love to reconnect soon (at least this year!)… will be in touch when health issues allow (still may be a while :/ ), xo

      • I know things are very rough for you and I’m so sorry to hear that your health has been worse lately. I will look forward to connecting with you whenever it works out . In the meantime, I’m sending you positive thoughts and virtual hugs.

  17. A wise choice to become more selective. This is something I’m striving to do too. As a type A personality I have a tendency to try to do it all, then burn myself out in the process. Good luck on your goal for this year Debbie!

    • I identify with the Type A personality, Lisa. It’s so hard for me to not be about to do as much lately because of my health, but I’m also just really tired of thinking what I do isn’t enough. That in and of itself will burn a person out! I wish you the best of luck on being more selective and gaining more peace, too.

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