Dearly Beloved: I’m Dealing With Döstädning

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“But Jane–imagine, you could die tomorrow.  I don’t think you will, but…. who’s going to take care of all this crap?!  Oh, God!  I don’t think we can all finish this today.   This will take hours.” — Margareta Magnusson @ 3:10

I’m going to die.  Okay, I got that one out of the way.  Yes, I’m going to die.  No, I most gratefully do not have a terminal disease that I know of.  However, I am all of a sudden (as in the last year) starting to actually think about the art of dying.  Because though it is oft-repeated cliche, it’s also actually true:  If you can plan and get past your own death, you truly, truly are free to live.  

What is it that I want people to remember about me when I’m gone?

More importantly:  What is it that I still want to do?  Still must do?  What gives me joy and most honestly–what steals and kills it?  

I realize there are some things holding me back.

Like many people, moms especially, I feel the daily crush of:

  • Housework
  • Work outside of the home
  • Kid’s activities
  • Taking care/helping a parent
  • Too much email
  • More bills with less money
  • Too many questions asked of me
  • Too many decisions required by me
  • Too much time doing and far too little time just being

For a few years I’ve been handling the status quo despite dizzying headaches and a chestpain that never seems to subside.  Despite trying my darndest to eat mostly healthy, take supplements, exercise at least a couple of times a week and not freak out despite areas of life we aren’t sufficiently prepared for.

This question has been haunting me the better part of a year:

WHY CAN’T I SEEM TO HANDLE MY LIFE ANYMORE?

I realize it’s more than just the myriad of responsibilities and the changing hormones of menopause (which that of in itself often feels like I roll out of bed in the morning after a losing end of a bar fight the night before.)

It’s no longer satisfying enough for me to survive each day.  My spirit is begging me:  PLEASE….let me LIVE….AGAIN!  I remember who you were, do you?

Enter Döstädning.

You may have heard of it.  It’s also known as the Swedish Art of Death Cleaning.  It’s not morbid at all.  In fact it’s super freeing.  At least it looks like it is.  That’s because I’ve just begun.  But I have started.  Consciously.  

This is Swedish Death Cleaning:  You start systematically going through and purging your stuff that would not bring others joy, were you to pass.

I have had to realize some hard truths about myself this year:   Primarily this one:

You get what you choose in life.  If my life is challenging, it is because I have elected to make it so.  I have made it so by the dreadful disease of hanging on.   

Not just stuff.  Emotions too.  For every object I own, there must be ten corresponding feelings that go with it.  To toss the object, means to throw away a part of myself.  Or does it?

After consulting the internet and articles and videos, I can unequivocally confess that I hang on to memories and souveniers and items….most all of them.  It’s as if I spent 30 years of my life documenting through photos and writing and saving trinkets from trips and memorabilia as proof that life my life–my family’s life was good.  Proof, that I was a good mom.  That I took my kids to some amazing places.  That despite challenges and setbacks, our family had a fantastic time here.    But in the process of saving and documenting all these memories, I lost sight of something:  My kids have grown up, save one– our baby, who at nearly 13, is 2/3 grown!   It’s painfully sad, but childhood is actually a short chapter in our lives, despite a few long days.

Apparently, my husband and I have done at least an okay job because guess what:  They are living their own life now.  Working and relationships and planning and hoping for their futures.  All good things.  All not requiring things I thought were worthy of saving:

  • Souveniers from trips and interesting (to me) household objects
  • Kitchen stuff they might want one day
  • DVDs and tapes we watched together; games we played, crafts we made
  • Books we read together and many that were never read at all but I always hoped we would
  • Baby clothes and blankets
  • Albums from my childhood.  Wait, you’re a Millennial and you’re telling me you don’t want to listen to Mom’s old favorite music?  What’s that? You say you can just listen to it on Spotify if ever interested?  Oh.

The painful truth is, the above items are an infitesimally small fraction of what I actually saved.  To list it all would be to bore the reader, and depress myself unbearably. Because starting today I have vowed to myself I will do this:

I will prayerfully and hopefully and with encouragement begin a year of Döstädning.  Though it is emotionally painful to release things, I am going to try to anyway.

If I were to die tomorrow, what my kids would inherit would be cruel and inhumane.  It would be a house full of scrapbooks and notebooks and clothes and books.  If I haven’t put it together well in all these years, how on earth could they do it in days to weeks?  I must think about this.

 I choose to think about this with joy, not self-condemnation, but with a divine sense of urgency because I love them so.

I have limited time left with my parents.  I have limited time left myself.  I hope I have all the time in the world with my kids, but life in it’s sometimes cruel and majestic mysteries  have already shown me this very real truth:

NONE OF US ARE GUARANTEED ANOTHER DAY

So with that, starting today, I will live different.  I will be giving less gifts and I’m also begging others for less.  I don’t want things from people.  I do want genuine face-to-face time, not texting, emailing, or that altogether phony but noble indefinite plan to get together “someday soon”.

I want to be free to wake up and be creative.  Or active.  Or responsible.  Or all of the above.  But it’s impossible, if I’m chained to objects and the repositioning of them, as opposed to the releasing of them and in return the freeing of myself.

It’s going to take a while.  One doesn’t get fat overnight.  Neither does one get fat with stuff suddenly.  Like a new diet and exercise routine, it’s going to take some profound spiritual muscle and some heavy mental lifting.  I suspect I’ll be doing a lot of crying, so I am allowing myself a small fund for tissues. But otherwise, NO NEW STUFF!

It will take time:  Boxing up and donating or selling will mean choosing how to spend my time with intention.  It will take mental energy even when I’m physically tired.  I will do it anyway.

It will take courage:  This was so special to me, but I’m choosing to let it go.

It will take efficient time management:  Dear Lord, since seconds count in life, help me decide swiftly and efficiently as I handle this object.

It will take prayer:  Beloved object, mere thing–you served me so well at one time, but it is now time for us to part.  I now put you in the garbage and bid you adieu.

Perhaps some prayers will be painful:  You are attached to a sad or painful memory to me; I no longer need to hang on to you.  I am purposely choosing to let you go.

Or perhaps this prayer:  Dear object, gift from someone I truly love:  I was not a good steward of you.  Whether it was personal taste or disorganization, I did not enjoy you.  It is with love, I fondly remember the giver as I release you, said object, into other hands or a new dimension for you.

Whether I close my day or close my life, I do hope I can leave this world honestly with this prayer:

God:  I had an amazing life, overflowing with people and moments and blessings galore!  I got so much more than I deserved!  Thank you! These are the things I hold in my heart through every transition of life:  Love.

That’s it.  One word.  The only thing that we truly carry from this world to the next.

Let the gentle purging process begin.

Liz Fave Resources:

By the way, my neighbor wrote the second book.  Because when you let it go, you’re free to do what you love!

 

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The Big Bang Theory — According to Liz

Big Bang Psalm 8.3 and 4      Once upon a time in my life, a big crisis came.  BANG!   It was big.  How big?   Big enough to rock my world, and tilt my universe.

But you know what?  It didn’t kill me.  Though I thought it might.  It certainly had the potential to.  I thought I didn’t have the strength to go one more day.  But the next day, the sun rose again, and my feet found the floor and moved forward.

I didn’t think I could handle it.  And I was right.  In my own strength, I couldn’t.  I didn’t.  And I’m not.  But with God, all things are possible! (Matthew 19:26) That’s what’s engraved in the cross around my neck, and even more it’s invisibly etched in my heart; it’s the fiber of who I am.

See when you experience your BIG BANG moment, chances are it’s going to be one of those things that makes you question everything:

  •       Why did this happen to me? Our family?  The person I love?
  •       If God is good, why didn’t He PREVENT this?  Or FIX it?
  •       Or for God’s sake, allow me (us) to AVOID it all together?

I’ll tell you why.  Because none of us are spared.  In this world, you will have troubles…..

   You know it all too well.  If you’ve suffered, you know John 16:33 by heart by now.

We don’t get out of life without our share of sorrow or suffering.   We also don’t get out of life ALIVE.   It’s true.  We have to make our peace that we are but a blip on the timeline known as eternity.  And in so accepting, making peace with the question:

Okay then, what does it all mean?  What’s the point of anything in life?

You have to find the answers.   In the midst of the worst struggle—the most aggressive cancer or disease you are sentenced to live with, the scariest nightmare realized, the worse fear come true, or the harshest experience ever endured,  you have to CHOOSE: 

       If I never get the WHY of my questions answered, then how do I incorporate this into my life without being bulldozed by it?  How can I choose my suffering so that I can thrive, not just survive?

Everybody is different.  But for me, well a little time on the carpet, the vinyl, the place where the dust bunnies frolic is the best place to start.  On my knees.  Looking up.  Reaching out.  Trusting.  Hoping.  Knowing that to be true, which I can neither see or prove:

That there is a God.  And He really is faithful, involved in this, grieved by this, moved by this, working on this behind the scenes,and loving each of us thru this in so many tangible ways:

  • The prayers of others
  • The kindness of friends and strangers
  • The peace that sometimes comes and surpasses understanding

The wisdom to know that when fear creeps in, He is bigger than all of this and returns  the moment I ask for Him to.

      I took a picture of the moon tonight.  At first glance it was just a white dot in a black background.  I shot it from multiple exposure values: aperture sizes (determines the amount of light let into the lens), and shutter speeds (how long the shutter remains open).  You know what?  Despite subtle differences, the pictures looked pretty much the same.  Dull.  Listless.

But once I opened it up in my favorite photo editing app appropriately named LightRoom, I pulled the lever labeled “Clarity” over to the right about 100% to be exact.  And voila!  Stars appeared.  Stars I didn’t even see with my naked eye when I originally took the picture.  I zoomed in on the moon to enlarge it a bit.  More detail popped out, though somewhat hazy still to my eye.   You see I am limited by the lens through which I view all this.  Not just my camera lens, but also my human optical lens.

   Life is like that.  We see our circumstances through the lens of our own understanding.  And thus we are born into a life of pain.  We sometimes don’t get to see the diamond that is being cut out of the roughness of our life.   But God, with his infinite all-seeing eye, who created the moon, the stars, the earth, all the solar systems, and the entire universe, can always see all these details that we can’t.

We feel bitter tears slip from our eyes, but He only sees stars.  It is here, He best sees into us; He looks deep into the windows of our soul, and plants a new vision.  During our trials, is where God best plants the vision of hope, endurance, peace, and someday—joy.

       Life, like photography is about perspective.  It’s about vision.  It’s also about clarity.   There’s contrast involved—we can’t know light (goodness) if we don’t have darkness (evil) to compare it with.   We see our life thru a macro lens, up close and personal.  But God sees our lives (the big picture) from a wide angle lens that makes the Gran Telescopio Canarias (it has an aperture of a whopping 409 inches!) seems like the width of a gnat.  He also can see very detail up close, as if using an electron microscope, seeing the detail of our cells not even a billionth of a meter wide.    He can see every speck of us—perfectly.  And He can see within us, what others can’t and sometimes what even we can’t see in ourselves:  Our hurts, our dreams, our fears, our desires, our hopes, our passions, our purpose, and most of all:  our potential.

Sooner or later in life you may have one of those cataclysmic events that can only be described as The Big Bang.  The rest of the world hums merrily along unaware that you nearly lost your hearing, your vision, your sanity, and quite possibly your life as this cosmic collision internally implodes in your life.

But hold fast.  Trust in a God big enough to swallow your fears and your doubts.  Through applied pressure, extreme heat, and gravitational pull, know that God is forging something, better, refined, and new.   He ordered the universe outside of you; He can certainly order, rearrange, or repair if necessary,  the micro verse within you.   Wait upon Him.     Something beautiful is being made from all this.  Trust in Him to reveal it all at exactly the right time.

BANG BANG!  Now pray!

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 (NIV)

“Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others.”   Rick Warren – “The Purpose Driven Life:  What on Earth Am I Here For?”

The Ambiguity of Clarity (The Metaphysics of Taking Out the Garbage)


Metaphysics is a dark ocean without shores or lighthouse, strewn with many a philosophic wreck.  ~Immanuel Kant

“Let me be clear,” someone will say as they proceed to dole out specific instructions, demands, or an account regarding what happened, or what will happen.   Chances are, many of you will forget everything said after those first four words.

“Why didn’t you take out the trash?” I asked my husband as I toted the trash out to the bin for the ten hundredth time.   “I asked three times and you said you would,” I muttered resentfully.

After all I’m tired too!  I worked today, and have slightly more to do each morning than simply put my wallet in my back pocket and go. Did I feed the cats?  Are all the beds made?  Is the house cleaning itself as much as it can before I walk out, that is are the dishwasher and washer and dryer all going?  Did I check the back pack?  Is homework done?  Are notes from teachers replied to?  Is snack packed?  Did I write the lunch money check so my child won’t have vegetables only for the third day in a row?  Did I gather  all my necessary work supplies, cell phone (is it charged I pray?), IPODS, car charger cord?  Did I grab the grocery list of staples to cram in after work, but before my son gets off the bus?  And as I slam the locked door, and look down at my arms full of supplies, child, and breakfast on the run, I prayerfully beg God that once again, I made it out alive without forgetting the car keys and grateful I have an automatic shut off on my curling iron.

“I got a phone call.  Joey told me his next door neighbor is going to jail,” my husband says, as if this is a legitimate excuse for forgetting the trash.  What?  Joey who?  And this so called Joey’s next door neighbor has exactly WHAT to do with our lives?    “You know Joey–my brother’s friend,” he replies.  Then he’ll just stand there and tell me all about his brother’s friend’s neighbor’s sins as I have now moved on from re-bagging the trashcan to emptying the dishwasher, feeding the cats, and pulling out a can of whatever it is I deem is dinner worthy.

The story will drag on.  My husband will continue standing  there repeating the second-hand drama of someone I didn’t even know existed when my trash first started cascading over the brim.

I get it.  He’s tired.  He finds this story interesting.  But frankly, well, I care about it as much as he wants to read what I write, or hear about the lives of my friends, or best of all, talk “relationship” talk.  That hobby died many moons ago, probably our early thirties is my best guess.

The point is this.  I was so crystal clear.  I packaged my request in as few words as I possibly am capable of:  PLEASE TAKE OUT THE TRASH.  I tried to speak cohesively, coherently, and effectively:  DID YOU TAKE OUT THE TRASH YET?  And one final attempt, as I race upstairs to transfer another load of wet washed clothes to the dryer, before remotes are powered on, and brains check out, “YOU ARE GOING TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH ALREADY,  RIGHT?!?!”     Which part of my words were obscure or incomprehensible?

I race downstairs, after quickly folding a small basket of dry clothes, mentally choosing a dinner plan, eagerly hoping to get the family fed, kitchen cleaned, and spend a little quality time with our 6 year old son.   Then, hopefully if the planets of the universe line up exactly right, and all my chores are finished, maybe, just maybe, I can start on some writing before midnight.  One can hope, anyway.

In the grand scheme of marriage and of life, it’s not a big deal.  Deep down, I know this.  But on the surface of life, those repeating annoyances of everyday life, I’m sorry, but as Vice President Joe Biden would say, “it’s one BFD!” only for me, it’s not a blunder, but reality!  What is it about me I think that with pin point accuracy, often causes me to verbally hit the hubster’s aural blind spot?

Lest you think he’s a really terrible ogre, let me be clear; he’s not.  He’s worked over twenty five years, ten to twelve hour days bent over fixing cars so that our three kids were always able to do every sport, activity, group or team event they ever wanted to, send two of them to college, and every expense related to owning a home.  Now, nearing fifty, he goes to work enthusiastically each morning, knowing we still have at least a good twelve to sixteen years to go, counting college with our littlest one.  My husband took the brunt of the work load, so I could have the benefit of staying home when we could afford it, and working part time when we couldn’t.

In the department of selective hearing loss-impaired husbands, I take comfort in knowing I have a million moms as my sister wives.  I also know the problem is not me.    I state things clearly.  It’s just that men sometimes hear things ambiguously, another words, they hear things vaguely.  Their brain may process more than one interpretation.  Possibly, my husband thought I meant to take out the trash whenever he gets around to it, or one of these days, or just thought I was fleshing out an idea for a blog topic.

You see, marriage is built upon the foundation of The Uncertainty Principle.  Yes, it’s quantum physics, but trust me, you’ll clearly understand the dynamics here.  Basically, whenever the position of something is a known factor, it’s corresponding momentum becomes an unknown factor; and vice versa.  You see your spouse standing there.  You see the trash.  But will a movement occur here that will change the fundamental dynamics of your kitchen?  Or conversely, you see the trash can is now empty, but where in the world did my wife disappear to?

Yes, in marriage and in life, it’s about making our desires strategically clear.  Hopefully, there’s flexibility and forgiveness to see the big picture and enough faith to survive all that is ambiguous and uncertain from moments of inconvenience to disasters of epic proportions.  Clearly, you will have them, if you move or stand still long enough!

To teach how to live with uncertainty, yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy can do.  ~Bertrand Russell

Related Reading:  Transcendental Algebra and The Uncertainty Principle: http://www.aip.org/history/heisenberg/p08.htm

Also I have read (it’s easy and fun!)and LOVE this very colorfully illustrated book:

The Principles Of Uncertainty

http://workrepository.com/work_pages/maira_kalman/index.html