Steps Toward the Goal: Cutting Clutter

Two weeks ago, in my post “Looking Back Looking Forward,” I invited readers to join me in considering our successes and mistakes of 2018 and our goal for 2019. I shared my goal of Indie publishing my memoir, He Heard My Voice. I asked the following question and gave my answer:

What do I/you need to reach your goal?

I need to remain steadfast and focused, balancing my life and cutting out any clutter that gets in the way of reaching this goal.

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A New Year’s Eve on the Carolina coast

Now, almost two weeks into the new year, I’m focusing on how to cut out clutter and ways that relates to balancing my life—all in service of reaching my goal.

Over the years, I’ve mostly thought of clutter as physical things that litter my surroundings. As a self-diagnosed ADHD adult, I can easily create this litter from papers, bills, correspondence, the things of daily life and my creative pursuits. But as I’ve gotten older, I see clutter also as non-physical things like excessive noise, overly scheduled time, stored emotional hurts, unreasonable standards, and ways of doing things that are no longer useful. My new definition of clutter is:

Clutter is anything that takes up space in my mind, my emotions, or my physical surroundings and drains energy from me.

What areas of clutter do I need to cut in order to have more energy to focus on my goal?

I need every source of energy possible to do all the tasks that are required to independently publish my book. As I wrote about in the post “Not What I Expected,”I didn’t know that when I would be in the process of publishing my book I would also be taking care of my grandson and maintaining my part-time research nurse job. I need to work smarter because I don’t think I can work any harder. That means being very intentional about how I spend my time.

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My grandson, Baker

I’ve identified several areas that I can cut out.

First of all, there’s unnecessary stimuli that is both auditory and visual and keeps my mind engaged, working at a continual level. I watch some television shows out of habit, and while I half watch them, my brain does engage. I often multi-task and half-watch while writing, cooking or folding clothes—not fully focused on any one task. My friend since first grade, Donna, recently told me that now that she’s older, she’s decided she’s just going to do one thing at the time. How much cleaner that is than trying to juggle multiple things.

I remember that when I was a school nurse and had students return after concussions, they had strict guidelines on having periods of rest for their brains in order for them to heal from their injury. Sometimes my mind requires rest from overstimulation so that when I need to focus on what matters like my book, then I’ll have the reserves available.

Secondly, some of the clutter in my life is sticking to old patterns of doing things that no longer serve me. I used to feel like I had to personally respond to needs in my community in the same fashion as my mother. For example, if there was someone who was sick, she would take that person a homemade meal. Now, I have to realize that times have changed and I have to look closely at the decisions I make. It may be enough to send a card or a gift certificate to a restaurant, in order to balance my life, my precious time.

A third area of clutter is the lingering perfectionist ideas that are rigid and keep me bound to old ways of thinking. When I keep my grandson, Baker, I think of all the things he’s learning now that he’s 8 months old. I want the days with “Grammy”to be rich in helping him to grow and develop. But I realize that I don’t have to be reading to him the best books for children all the time. He is nurtured by hearing my voice reading anything, by our time together, and watching me valuing books.

Yesterday, when thinking about an upcoming recording session for my audio book, I practiced reading to Baker while he ate his teething crackers. I think he was just as entertained as when I read Winnie the Pooh!

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Listening to Grammy read from her memoir

These are my first steps in 2019 toward cutting clutter from my life so I can work smarter to publish my book. Each step is made in faith that I’m moving closer toward balancing my life and accomplishing the work I feel God has given me to do.

Blessings to You in the week ahead as you step closer to your goal.

Referenced Posts:

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Not What I Expected

 

How About You?

What is the clutter in your life?

How do you see it impacting your goals?

What steps can you take now to cut the clutter?

 

Afraid of the Next Chapter

The week I retired from school nursing reminded me of the week I got married; unbelievable that it was my turn to enter a new chapter of life. I’d watched many of my friends retiring like I’d watched those who married before me, observing them for how to approach that new venture, going to them for advice. But ultimately, it felt a bit surreal and like I’d set the whole process in motion and couldn’t stop it now. It was awkward, like I wasn’t sure where I was stepping and while people told me about their experiences of retirement, I knew it was different for each person. I had to go it alone. While most of me was tired and ready for my new life, part of me was scared, afraid of the next chapter.

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With my friend, Debra who staged a first aid scene for me to walk into– thus the bandaids!

I was used to my routine as a school nurse, working the ten months of the academic year with two months off in summer; the daily rhythm of a middle school and the way time is measured there; the certainty of knowing where I would be for eight hours each weekday with little free time to fret about. I think that as much as I fight routine, there is a feeling of safety when things stay the same. It gives me a sense of control, of knowing where to place my feet instead of feeling like I’m off kilter.

Today, I’m reminded of this because the students headed back to school this weekLast August, my first year of not being at my school after fifteen years of that beginning-of-the-school-year-windup at McDougle, I’d written in my morning devotional book, “First day of school and I’m not there. Feels empty.”

I was in a waiting period, writing a lot, planning a trip, and hoping to hear back from a part-time job as a research nurse. I wrestled with how to spend my day without the familiar tasks of school nursing, feeling a bit uneasy for no apparent reason.

I remembered that we’d learned about helping clients with transitions in my Life Coaching program. Pulling out our textbook, I reviewed one model we’d studied that used a Map for Change by Bill Bridges. According to Linda Bark, the author of our text and creator of our program, Bridges model for change breaks the process into three phases: endings, the gap, and new beginnings.

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Textbook for the Wisdom of the Whole Coaching Academy

My school job had ended March 31, 2017. It was a wonderful and exhausting process with emotional goodbyes with coworkers who’d become family, cleaning out accumlated files from my twenty years in school nursing, meetings and paperwork with our HR department. I experienced the range of emotions described in my text: grief, sadness, relief, anxiety, and excitement.

But because I was so busy getting ready for retirement, with the fanfare of farewells and paperwork, the Endings phase had not hit me that hard. All the scheduled deadlines with the state retirement system, goodbye parties, meetings to pass on my responsibilities kept me preoccupied and there was little time for all those emotions to really sink in.

Until I was in the Gap.

That’s when Bridges says that “the old is gone but the new beginning is not yet formed.”

I’d thought I would establish a coaching business and a writing business during that intial period after leaving the school. I was so tired and at a loss for what to do next. Looking at those two goals, it came to me, “It’s not realistic to start two businesses simultaneously.” My coaching class had emphasized Underpromising when it came to weekly goals (described in post “Underpromising: Is that Settling” June 30, ’18). I’d never started a business and didn’t know all the steps involved.

The Gap phase can be muddy, trying to make your way in foreign waters without that old familiar course you followed on autopilot. It’s a time when you “sit with things” instead of rushing on to fix the uncertainty about the new chapter you’re entering.

I return to what I’d written in my devotional book, “First day of school and I’m not there. Feels empty.” and see the rest of my entry;

“but also feels like I’ve moved on and I’m full of wonder with how God is going to move in my life.”

I will leave you with this until my next post. We’ll let ourselves Sit in the Gap, allowing that anxiety that comes with uncertainty, finding a resting spot in that trough between Endings and New Beginnings.

Like my wedding day, now forty years ago, we will trust the process as we approach a new chapter, that is both scary and exciting, with plot twists that we couldn’t anticipate.

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How about You?

Are you in a time of transition in your life?

How are you experiencing the Endings of that chapter? Have you moved into the Gap? If so, how is it for you?

Flow of Life

It’s been sixteen years since I was told that day would be my last at The Research Company.  Devastated, angry, and relieved to be free of them, I stepped forward onto an uncertain path. I was surprised my course returned me to school nursing.  When I retired from that position last March, I had no idea that my path would continue to a part-time job as the nurse for a psychiatric research study– this time for real.

The Research Company had recruited me to work on clinical trials with a psychiatrist they said would be joining the staff.  But that never happened.  Instead, I felt trapped, doing studies that weren’t remotely related to mental health.

Ironic that eighteen years after I was hired by that toxic company for studies that never materialized, I’m now hired to work part-time with a study led by a renown psychiatrist.  I walk into the office that is loft-like with a bay of desks, one that is mine for eight hours each week.  I think back to how my life has unfolded.

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In early January, our life coaching alumni group participated in a visioning exercise.  We were to focus on our coaching practice in the new year, imagining a butterfly leading us to our goal.  I could see a beautiful monarch in flight, like those that symbolize the healing care of lymphatic massage.  In my mind’s eye, the butterfly becomes supersized and picks me up at my middle school and carries me to a place I can’t see.  All I know is that I’d been lifted through no effort of my own.

Weeks later, with less than two months until retirement, I talked with my friend, Jennifer.  Feeling internal pressure to have the next chapter in place, I shared my frustration that I wasn’t further along with establishing my coaching and writing businesses.

“I hope you can let your retirement flow, organically,” she said.  “You’ve worked hard and it’s time to stop striving.”

I appreciated her wisdom.  She’d been retired for a couple of years and had experience with that chapter of life.  I thought about her word, organic and was reminded of being carried by the butterfly.

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Jennifer’s wisdom and the butterfly came to me often over the weeks before and after my last day at the school.  Both helped me relax about what would happen next.  Things did flow as my writing expanded to meet deadlines, and I  postponed working on my coaching business.

Over the first months of retirement, my energy was restored.  I didn’t realize how deeply tired I’d been.  Gradually, my interest increased for working with people in a meaningful way, using my skills as a nurse to balance the solitary quiet of writing.  About that time, a former co-worker had called and asked if I’d be interested in the research job.  No striving to find that position, just a gift that flowed into my hands, organically.

While The Research Company hadn’t worked out, my experience there taught me how to work with studies.  Now, I could use those skills for psychiatric research that was part-time and flexible, while I gradually developed a coaching practice– just enough meaningful work.

I imagine that monarch flying into my new office and landing on the lamp at my desk, the brilliant colors of the monarch standing out against the green shade.  This is where that path has led me, flowing organically to the next stop on my way.

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How About You?

Have you ever come back to a place in your life that you didn’t expect to return to?

How was the experience the second time around?

In what ways have you experienced flow in a time of transition?