As the sun was rising, there was a bank of clouds to the east that kept the sunlight from breaking through, and the light was somewhat hazy and muted. The drifts of snow were a beautiful very slightly bluish-grey hue, with the slightest hint of lavender, and ever little bump and ridge had soft shadowings - I with I could have taken some pictures but it was too cold to take my gloves off outside and I doubt if I could have captured the subtle color and shadings.
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Now, on to the OT portion of this post. I could have put this on my book blog, but there is some relevance to life in general, so I put it here instead. I occasionally will pick up and read a self-help book for fun, but rarely find that they have much to offer. They're usually variations on the same themes, are often impractically complex to follow or maintain, and are often badly written. There have been a few that I've found really good. I read David Allen's Getting Things Done a number of years ago and still use a number of his systems, especially the daily/monthly folder system and his ways of managing to-dos, to keep myself organized - his way of doing things is straightforward and easy to maintain. I really wish I had discovered this book when I was still working (I've been retired for about 10 years) - I think it would have made an even greater difference to me then.
Recently, I started reading a new book - SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life: A Four-Step Guide to Getting Unstuck, by Julie Morgenstern. You might think from the title that this is one of those "declutter" books, and in part it is, but there's some interesting stuff in there and the approach is a bit different and I think more thoughtful. The writing style of the book is a bit annoying - typical self-help style - but if you get past that the concepts are useful. The book is particularly directed at people who are at turning points in their lives - people who are becoming empty nesters (that would be me), getting divorced, changing jobs or thinking about changing jobs or careers, retiring, getting out of school, or who are just plain feeling stuck in their lives - feeling like things aren't right and that they need to change but just not finding their way to good solutions. The book focuses on three areas - physical environment and clutter, time commitments - to dos and obligations we feel we have to ourselves and others, and habits (including those mindless time-wasters) that may be interfering with our ability to get things done or move forward.
There are scads of self-help books that talk about organizing, decluttering, downsizing and changing bad habits. Where this book is different is that it says, first, that you can't free up space and time in your life by just throwing stuff away, reducing to-dos and commitments or trying to change habits - you have to understand what valid needs of yours your existing behaviors meet in order to change. If you declutter without knowing what that was about for you, pretty soon everything will be cluttered back up again. The objective is, instead of beating yourself up for your current situation or habits, to find more effective ways of addressing your needs that don't just put you back in the same situation. And some of those objects, time commitments and habits may in fact be "treasures" that should be retained in some form. That's good stuff, and the examples of real people and their stories are very interesting and in some cases personally helpful (to me).
But the second difference was the one that really interested me. The book says that, in order to effectively "unstick" yourself, you have to have in mind what your "theme" for you life going forward is to be (not to say that this can't be changed as you move forward) - that's why the book is particularly relevant to people at times of life change. A theme is not an activity or a particular job, it's an overarching concept. If you have a theme, then every choice you make, to retain or toss an object, to retain or eliminate/pass off/reduce a time commitment or change a habit, is taken because it frees up mental and physical space for you to develop your new (or existing) theme. Sometimes, particularly for people at points of life change, much of what we have - possessions, time commitments and habits - are related to old themes which were once valid but no longer are. If you have an idea of what your theme is, you then have a context in which to make decisions about what to keep and what to toss, and what to change about how your life is constructed.
I've been thinking about this a lot. There was an odd coincidence this week with the passing of my former colleague. I attended his visitation and memorial service this week, and met up again with most of my former work colleagues. These were people who were once a central part of my life - we worked very closely as a small team - but most of whom I haven't seen or been in touch with for almost 10 years since I retired. Although I was glad to see them and appreciated the chance to catch up, seeing them made me realize how completely done I was with that phase of my life.
Looking back, my life theme before my retirement almost 10 years ago was Achievement - I was the ultimate Type A high achiever - driven and focussed on success and recognition. When I retired, and up until now, my themes were Responsibility - to my family, particularly as my children completed their growing-up - and Security - getting my financial matters in shape to make sure I could survive as a retired person, and appreciating what I have in my home, neighborhood (and barn!). I've been thinking about the theme for the next phase of my life as my children leave home for good, and it's pretty clear to me that I want the themes to be Adventure and Creativity/Self-Expression. Now that I'm beginning to understand that, I'm in a better position to look at my possessions, time commitments and habits in light of those themes.
So, what's your theme? And, if you're at a point of life change, what was your old theme and what will the new one be?
Enjoy your weekend, and may it include horses!