I spent most of my February in a dark place. It was depressing, scary, and cold. Yes, I spent most of February in a basement storage area tackling my big decluttering project. And it only took me thirty-six years to start on it!
While I was digging through one of many boxes, I found a paper I wrote my first year of college called “The Art of Packing.” How odd — to be finding it as I was unpacking my life, thirty-six years before I started packing it all up.
I was only a senior in high school when my mother passed away. Since my parents were divorced, I was left responsible for packing up a three-story colonial home. As I worked my way through each and every drawer, dresser, and cabinet, I divided the items evenly between me and my two siblings.
Yet, my brother and sister did not want much to do with the memorabilia I saved for them. So, I took on the role of caretaker. For thirty-six years, I held on to everything. Each time I moved to a new home, so did the boxes. I carried them around like a heavy weight from place to place.
I KEPT THE BOXES FOR
I’ve patiently waited for my siblings to show up at my house so I can pour them each a glass of wine, turn on some music, and go through the memorabilia together. I had this vision of a happy-go-lucky gathering. But, it never happened and it might never have happened. So I had my own party. Except it didn’t go exactly as I had envisioned.
There was no wine, no music, and no laughter. Just me alone, venturing into the dark storage area to retrieve box after box. Each item, whether it be a piece of paper or a picture, was painfully examined. Throughout the process, it felt like I was re-attending the funerals of both my parents. And even my own.
"We all lived with my mother in a three story colonial house. The house now stands silent filled with the lives of four people. These possessions that fill up our house now needs to be packed and put away." — An excerpt from my college essay, The Art of Packing, 1983
In the end, I filled up twenty contractor bags of trash, made two trips to Habitat for Humanity, dropped off two loads at my local second hand store, sold some items, and gave others away. This decluttering project was messy, heavy and depressing as hell. And I was left thinking about why I had held on to all of these things?
Keeping all of these mementos meant that I valued my life and the things I’ve helped create. These items represented my years of motherhood, building a business, banding birds in the field, and being part of my small, Upper Peninsula community. And keeping all of my family’s memorabilia meant that I cared about my parents and valued their lives. Otherwise who would? I thought, ‘why do we live these lives if nobody remembers or cares about us after we’re gone?’ But, this thinking kept me stuck. And it kept me feeling heavy.
"My mother had forty-five teacups and saucers. To be fair about the division, we cleared the family room floor, smoked a joint and preceded to put all forty-five cups and all the saucers on the floor." — Wendy Wagoner, The Art of Packing, 1983
I had to let go of my parents, again. I had to let go of the belief that I am a ‘bad’ person if I let go of my mother and father’s childhood pictures or their yearbooks. And I had to drop the role of caretaker that I had shouldered for thirty-six years.
In the end, I could feel in the deepest part of my being, that no picture or box filled with memorabilia represented a life well lived. It was just stuff. And that stuff doesn't define me as a child, sister, or mother. And that is what truly sparks joy in my heart!
"There is no graceful way for me to way good-bye, even to a house. The house is packed and gone, school has ended and I must move onward." — Wendy Wagoner, The Art of Packing, 1983
Do you think that if you take time for yourself, it’s selfish, rude, or not allowed?
I encourage you to change your perspective on self-care and instead think: IF I take time for my well-being, THEN I’m respecting myself.
Are you struggling to sleep at night or stressing about your work/life balance?
Do you incorporate any play or fun into your daily life? Or does that just happen on Saturdays?
If you don’t practice self-care, it can have consequences. Self-care reduces the negative effects of stress, help you refocus, and can positively impact your health and relationships.
If you continue to put yourself last, nothing changes. Nobody is coming to rescue you. I know it's a hard reality to accept, but you are the creator of your daily life. You are the change!
Self respect exercise — time to practice
1) Make a list of 10 activities for your perfect day. Think about activities that will make your heart sing. To get started, check out this website and these suggestions:
2) Select each activity from your list and put it in your day planner or calendar for the upcoming month. I personally use Mel Robbin’s 5-Second Journal.
Do you have a full calendar? Start small and schedule short five-minute activities. If you schedule them in your phone, turn on a sound notification so when it dings, you know to take 5.
Remember: Be specific. What day, what time, and for how long? If you need to leave the house, how will you get there and what time will you leave your house?
On this Tuesday at 8pm, I will take an epsom salt bath for 30 minutes.
Next Sunday at 11am, I will go snowshoeing at Empire Bluffs Trail in Empire, Michigan with my dog for an hour and a half.
Give yourself some self-respect and nurturing this month.
YOU are worth making YOU a habit!
Need an accountability buddy? We are here to support you in the Attuned Coaching private Facebook group, Mindset Masters Unite! Our community comes together to share our daily mindset accomplishments and struggles. Find daily motivation and tips on kicking ass with a Growth Mindset by joining us here! Each day this December, we will be sharing our self-care activities.
Fall is here and the nights are getting cooler.
Now that you’ve started incorporating the first three action steps from Choose You Pt. 1, we are introducing the following four habits that address interdependence (i.e. working with others).
Reminder: Each of the bolded steps below corresponds with one of S. Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
4. THINK WIN-WIN: CONNECT
When we plant a garden, we need to consider how ALL the vegetables, herbs, insects and flowers can win and thrive in the garden. We call this combination planting -- how the plants, insects, and animals all interconnect with each other. What plants should go next to each other so they can all win? Can some of the plants have symbiotic relationships with other plants and animals? Perhaps you can leave the broccoli and let it go to flower for the insects to enjoy. It is not just about how you can benefit from this garden, but how everything can benefit from this garden.
How do we feel internally when we are connecting and feeling supported? Usually pretty good, right?The win-win comes from having a growth mindset that considers how everyone can win. This might be a new concept for some people. Most of us grew up around the idea that there is a winner and a loser. In other words, someone had to win and it was usually our parents. In the past, we might have felt like we needed to collapse, rebel or rationalize (all childhood strategies) or the love would go away. In court, sports, and our everyday relationships, we are programmed to assume that there will be a winner and a loser. Would you consider changing that perception so everyone wins? To fully experience interdependence, we have to be willing to open our hearts to each other and empathize. Adopting a growth mindset will allow us to have more courage and vulnerability. Together, let’s change our perceptions and open our hearts. Let’s make true connections
5. SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD: ACTIVE LISTENING
How do we understand what is happening in the garden if we don’t know anything about the plants, soil, or gardening methods? We must first strive to understand plant varieties and even some soil science. We also need to understand how it all works together and the proper tools to use. How can we listen and take in what our garden is communicating to us through senses?
We will not have strong connections with others unless we first seek to understand them. We can do this by actively practicing listening skills, allowing us to more genuinely understand what the other person is saying. Listening with an open mind facilitates a positive connection with the other person as well as a growth mindset. This is an important skill to continually work on. Check out my active listening skills handout on how to practice this skill.
6. SYNERGIZE: GROW UP
There is a synergy of mycelium that interconnects everything under the surface of the soil. This interconnectedness is happening in our bodies too — through fascia. Nothing is separate or functions separately. Just go out and put your hand under the soil and see for yourself!
Now we come together. We find our tribe of people that lift us out of childhood patterns. We stop using our child defenses and act as grown ups — calling each other on our shit. We must learn that acting in our childhood patterns does not serve growth and does not allow others to see who we truly are. We need to finally realize that as adults, cheerleading each other through our negative, old, painful stories keeps us stuck and feeling bad — this is not growth. Instead, we need to grow up and finally see that we are NOT our stories. Instead, let's find our true essences, which have been within us all along.
7. GROWTH: KEEP GOING
When late summer rolls around you might feel burnt out on gardening, but if you remember to plant your fall crops, like spinach, peas and garlic, you will be eating well into the fall — or have garlic to harvest next summer! You have to continually be thinking ahead to sustain your garden’s harvest for as long as you can. Growing is not always easy. But to stay healthy and have the nutrients you need in your body to feel healthy, you need to keep going and growing!
You are now a conscious human BEING. You now know what is meaningful to you and how to integrate it into your new life. It does not stop there, however. Growth is always changing — just watch your garden grow! Each stage has new growth and each stage needs new tools and actions steps to keep it all functioning at its maximum healthy potential. Keep growing and don’t become fixed in anything.
Wisdom comes from this internal place of knowing that it is NEVER outside of us, it is always WITHIN. Explore, be curious, have a growth mindset, and practice your action steps from the present moment. Ask yourself — who am I taking myself to be? Your orientation is from TRUTH and when you come out of hiding, you stop lying to yourself. Remember, NOBODY is coming to save you, NOBODY BUT YOU! YOU are it! CHOOSE YOU!
7 Habits of Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon
When the cool nights of fall start pulling at you to get up and move, you know it’s time to pull up the vegetables from your garden.
Eyes wide open to the beauty, nourishment and vastness of the sustenance around you, you pluck, tug and release your vegetables from the soil.
You anticipate what the veggies you planted will taste like and you’re ready to feel the nourishment from the array of vegetables you’ve harvested.
When everything is harvested from the garden and the green growth is gone, you see this new spacious potential for next year’s growth.
You have all winter to choose what you want in your garden next spring!
ARE YOU READY TO CHOOSE YOU?
Ask yourself these questions:
Do you procrastinate and end up exhausted trying to meet deadlines?
Do you ever get to the end of the day on Friday and think, “I didn’t do anything for myself this week?"
Do you find no pleasure or joy in your day-to-day chores?
Do you feel as if you’re sometimes just “winging it,” meandering aimlessly through life?
Do you ever ask yourself, “Is this all there is to life?”
Here are the first three ACTION steps (i.e. new habits to incorporate into your life) to help you Choose YOU! When you decide to Choose YOU, you decide to no longer allow your life to get away from you. Choosing YOU allows you to step away from the same habitual patterns you've had your whole life. These patterns, based in fear, have held you back from BEING BIG and living from a true place of joy! It is time, no matter how old you are. It is never too late to Choose YOU!
The first three ACTION steps involve moving from dependence to interdependence. Stay tuned for the next four action steps in Pt. 2 of Choose YOU!
Each of the bolded steps below corresponds with one of S. Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
1. BE PROACTIVE: CREATE A VISION
If your only source of food is the garden, what is it you want to plant in the spring?
BEing proactive is about grounding in the present moment and being aware of what could happen before it happens. When you are working on a project you collect all your tools you will need before you start. This creates a relaxed state of BEing.
Finding a space that allows you to carve out inner silence is your very first step. It can be anywhere, just find it. Use this space to go within yourself and explore what is it you truly want for this one life you have.
2. BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND: THINK BIGGER PICTURE
Go ahead, close your eyes and envision what your garden will look like by next fall. What do you see yourself harvesting and eating for the year?
This bigger picture challenge is a fun ACTION step. It allows you to dream without any fear! Anything is possible. Believe that the Universe has your back and there is no lack, just abundance. Putting a plan together is key to moving toward what you want to create for yourself.
Maybe you want to make a vision board? Find magazines (tip: ask your hairdresser or dentist to save you some). Start cutting or tearing out pictures that grab your attention. Don’t overthink it, just feel it - this is a right brain exercise. You can later discard what might not fit.
3. Put first things first: PRIORITIZE
If the broccoli is ready to harvest today but you choose to harvest the onions, which can stay in the ground longer, then you fail to notice and set your priorities.
Envision what your life looks like now. What will matter when you are on your deathbed?
Note: Remember not to skip ahead to this third step without completing the first two. You cannot prioritize what is important to you if you haven’t taken the time to put together a plan of action.
Break your priorities into 4 categories:
Really explore how much time you spend in each category above to see how balanced your life is. See if you need to add to your vision board after looking at these 4 categories.
How can you find true balance? It doesn’t just magically happen. It takes ACTION to find balance. It involves directing your ATTENTION to the areas of your life that truly matter to YOU! This step allows you to let go of aspects of your life that do not service your well-being.
You can’t only eat cucumbers out of your garden each and every day. You need to find balance so you are getting all the nutrients your body needs to thrive.
As you have complete each action step above, stay on track by continually returning to this simple question:
What do you want your ONE precious life to look like?
What do you want to create with the precious time you have left in life?
No thinking...just answer the first thing that comes to your mind.
Ok, now write it down on the top of a piece of paper.
How does it make you feel?
Do you feel excited?
Depressed because you don't think there is a way to create what you wrote down?
How you feel about your answer will help determine the work you'll need to put in to move toward your answer.
Our intention and commitment are based on having a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset is stagnant, wanting perfection, and hoping that things will make you more — more happier, more lovable, etc. This orientation is an attempt to enhance and improve the ego.
A growth mindset is just that — you are focused on growth without a destination in mind. You are curious while on an adventure of the present moment. With a growth mindset, you're not giving up on yourself. The mindset can diminish and dissolve the ego, rather than enhance it. The ego cannot pursue a true aim, only presence can. Instead, your aim is to understand yourself now. It is the dance of life.
Life is not about where you want to go. It's not about waiting and striving to get someplace other than where you are right now.
Do you spend your day waiting for lunch time? Or, the end of the work week? Are you always looking forward to something different than what is happening right now in the present moment? If so, then you have a fixed mindset and you are living a future-orientated life and you have some work to do!
Do you enjoy your day no matter what time it is or what day of the week it is? Do you find joy in the ordinary and simple tasks you need to perform? If so, then you have a growth mindset and you're doing great!
"The growth mindset is the dance of life."
If you think you have a fixed mindset, then it is time to STOP meandering through your life with no directional compass, hoping someone will come and save you, or change it for you. YOU are it! When you are committed to ego-boosting activities, as you are with the fixed mindset, you're like a hamster on a wheel. When you reject the present reality and hope or imagine a future that will be better than what you have right now — you begin a pattern of rejection, hope, and desire. It then feeds into the belief that you are not enough. Such thoughts keep us stuck in our childhood and past core beliefs that simply don't serve us anymore.
So, what are you spending your precious time doing? Will you take the step to unravel your "stuck" places or habitual patterns today? Choose to accept the growth mindset!
Find more about the fixed and growth mindsets in Carol S. Dweck's book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
Wendy Wagoner has explored numerous avenues of disciplines over the last 30 years. She is a professional Awakening Coach, healer, and experienced workshop leader.
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