Tag Archives: Peter Walsh

Makin’ progress on my 2019 “resolutions”

It’s time for a little update on my kinda, sorta, resolutions for 2019. I’m off to a good start.  I’ve read 9 books (the year’s goal is 20) but I actually think nine isn’t that many because I started several I didn’t finish so they don’t count. I’ve been having trouble finding books that really hold me. My attention wanders or I’m not anxious to pick the book up again after starting it. I know completely what it is to fall into a book, to be absorbed and excited and unable to stop turning pages. THAT’S what I want but lately that hasn’t happened so much. The books are “okay” just not blowing me away. Best one so far was Kathryn Harrison’s book of essays, True Crimes: A family album.

Yesterday I started reading Chuck Klosterman’s collection of essays X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century and I’m happy to say, it’s going fast. He is so readable especially to anyone prone to analyzing, particularly pop culture.

The yoga is off to an excellent start. I’ve done the “Sun Salutation” sixteen times (the goal for the year is 50) and I’ve done 30 minutes of yoga eleven times (the goal is 25). I never used exercise videos before but to teach myself yoga, I’ve been checking DVDs out of the public library. I’ve done five different ones. My impression so far is that yoga is no different than anything else; instructors have very different styles & approaches. For instance, one instructor says always breathe through your nose and out your mouth while doing the poses and another says always breathe in through your nose and out through your nose. I don’t really care one way or the other; the breathing aspect is not my concern. My exhaling while practicing yoga is most obvious to me; it’s a sign I’m relaxing.  I like teachers I can relate to, who have a sense of humor, and aren’t overly rigid; to that end I can already tell I prefer Tara Stiles over Rodney Yee, for an example (of two well-known instructors).

To me, yoga is exercise focusing on balance, strength, and stretch. The way I see it, most of us over time limit our range of motion which doesn’t serve us as we age. Yoga positions aren’t ones you’d typically find yourself in on the average day. Like, how often does any of us make a point to bend over backward or remember to stretch out our spine or balance on one foot or swing our feet over our head while laying down? I dunno about you but these things aren’t in my usual day’s repertoire of motion. Yoga gets you to make a point of these things and much more.

I’m not going to tell you my life is transformed but I am sure yoga is good for me, physically and mentally. However much I do of it. I think it helps you to not take your body for granted and to become aware of it and everything it does for you. And — quality of life is often attached to strength and range of motion. The longer you  can remain strong and agile, the better off you will be as you age. This is my take. I am the one taking care of me so I have a BIG investment in staying strong and capable.

I made simple loose leaf lists to keep track of my progress. In my experience, things – of pretty much any stripe – are always longer ago than I remember them, so the lists keep me on track. I can take a quick look and see, “Oops, I haven’t done yoga in a week!” Since I’m far more a when-the-spirit-moves-me-person than one-who-adheres-to-a-strict-routine, this works well.

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I’m more active in warm weather so, since I don’t belong to a gym (and never have) I really need to make a point to keep moving in winter. I wanted this to be a year of getting physically stronger. Not that I’m any slouch, but I wanted to do more. I’ve been walking a lot and using my treadmill, a manual one someone gave away in 2017, on days I don’t walk outdoors. I’m doing pushups (the man kind) and using my hand weights. I didn’t include this in my resolutions, but I’m also regularly using the hula hoop I picked up at Target a couple years ago. I’d like to think it works your mid-section but even if it doesn’t, any kind of motion, I figure, is good.

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Switching gears, I have to make fun of myself yet again for thinking it might be “hard” to find fifteen things to get rid of this year. See, I’ve already done all kinds of de-cluttering in years past. I read Throw Out Fifty Things and Peter Walsh’s book and more recently even Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy (although I’ve never seen her show). No one would walk into my home – I promise – and think I had a clutter problem or needed to get rid of stuff. And YET…. I’ve already put 97 things on my list!! I’ll grant you, almost all were small items, but still, that’s 97 things given away, recycled, or tossed. Here’s a small section of the list to show you. (As you see, I editorialize myself occasionally with things like an UNHAPPY face, which is basically me rolling my eyes at myself.)

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I’m slacking on the Italian CDs. I have the Conversational Italian CD set out of the library but I haven’t gotten past lesson 6, meaning basically I haven’t done any in 2019. My goal was to get through all the lessons but I’m no longer sure I will. I’ve never felt I had a knack for anything other than the English language and trying these Italian lessons, sadly, hasn’t changed my mind.  I haven’t learned nothing exactly; I can say – poorly – that I speak a little Italian. I should probably learn how to say I speak VERY little Italian.

On whole, I’m feeling good about all this. I might do some yoga, and I might read some books, and I might throw out stuff  with no resolutions and no lists but with the resolutions and my simple lists, I KNOW I’m doing it. 2019 is about pushing myself physically and mentally, preventing drift and being more focused. I like it.

My “stuff” isn’t getting the better of me any more

Probably like (too) many things, we first learn about “stuff” [tilts head toward the late George Carlin] from our parents. My parents hung onto their stuff. There were two generations between us – they could have been my grandparents age-wise and had lived through the U.S. Great Depression – and I have to think that affected how they approached their belongings. They weren’t of the same exact mindset and that was but one of the things which caused friction between them. (Note to self: Only cohabitate with people who share your attitudes about stuff.)

I grew up believing that a person could have one nice thing of a type for “special” (that was almost never allowed to be used be it shoes, a piece of jewelry, a dish, a dress), and the rest had to be kinda crappy or run-of-the-mill. I learned to hang onto things, because you just never know. And: don’t be wasteful. Contrary to increasingly popular attitudes about scaling back and getting rid of things you don’t need, when I was coming up, the message (from what I heard and read in articles & books) was about how to keep things. But there’s only so many pencil holders made from tricked out tin cans a gal can use.

Over the course of my life, I’ve moved a lot. I don’t mean around the country, but the way a typical renter moves a lot. And I hauled all my sh*t with me. It just didn’t occur to me that I could let things go. I felt an obligation to keep every stuffed animal given to me by old boyfriends, friends or relatives (even though I didn’t really like having them, or so darn many of them past the age of 20 or so); every greeting card, everything I’d made, every knick-knack, almost every present received. It wasn’t as if I was toting around heirlooms, antiques, and things that would appreciate in value. (As I told a cousin who expressed regret over possibly having tossed out too many things, if they were gold bricks you would have saved them.) I’ve kept house plants that were ailing and/or I didn’t like. It’s a plant, a living thing: you can’t throw that out! I kept broken or substandard things: you might be able to fix it one day. Or it’s good enough (and here’s the uncomfortable, then-unconscious part: …for you.)

I never lived in squalor. I always cleaned. But I couldn’t always lay my hands on things I was looking for; my shelves were stacked with books and knick-knacks, my closets were full, my paper files plentiful. Every time I saw certain items – things from the past, broken stuff, things that were once nice, jewelry I no longer wore, things I’d hauled home with the thought of one day making something with them, magazines and books I hadn’t read (yet) – I felt twinges of guilt or unease. Those were familiar sensations, part of the diet I was fed from a very young age, and had been toting around for years. Applying them to my belongings was largely my own doing. (Feelings are always in need of outlets are they not?! We just look around for what’s at hand.)

As I started to look at myself differently – from reading, from thinking, from growing up – I started to look at the stuff differently too. Part of what motivated me was being involved in dismantling the households and possessions of a few people who had died. There is nothing like seeing what another person has held onto to shock you into action. Looks like THEY never found a use for 20 old glass jars. As I mentioned in one of my earliest posts, I saw a garage belonging to a woman I know that was almost empty. It housed a car and almost nothing else. I was so impressed! I watched public personalities like the quirky, common-sensical Peter Walsh, clutter master, and too cute designer Nate Berkus, on TV. I couldn’t relate to the shopping habits and hording I saw in many of the people profiled, but the basic principals I could. I read books from the library: Throw Out 50 Things, Peter Walsh’s books, and others.

What these people said made sense. It’s like they gave me the permission I’d been seeking. I remember one author mentioning that a shelf didn’t have to be filled. Maybe it’s terribly obvious, but that had never occurred to me before. I felt huge relief in letting things go. It became a game and a challenge (and I love both!). What else can I get rid of? I wanted to look around and only see things that pleased me. It wasn’t about money. It didn’t require a bunch of spending, so much as getting creative. Raising my standards. I stopped accepting substandard stuff from other people, both tangible and not. And not to get too metaphaphysical on you, but as I did this, better stuff came along when I needed it.

Don’t imagine I now live in a museum, stark and bare, the kitchen stocked with a simple bowl and a single spoon, the shelves stripped, no knick-knacks or houseplants in evidence. Not at all. I like having pictures on the wall, plants in every room, knick-knacks on shelves, and a couple time-saving devices in the kitchen. Doesn’t have to be pricey or high-end. Comfortable, organized, and attractive is the goal. I need a place that makes me feel cozy and safe and at ease. I need pretty. But I’m mindful and careful now. The whole kit and caboodle requires maintenance, needs me to be vigilant and keep my eyes on the prize.