I have too much — too much stuff in my house, too much to do on my ever growing list, too much mess that needs cleaning up. Just too much.
And while I try to stay on top of things — keeping a constant stream of items heading for donation, checking items daily off my to do list, and cleaning up at least a few messes a day, more just comes in.
A couple weeks ago, my friend Catherine Connors emailed asking if we would participate in a new project she has started, the Whole Family Happiness project.
Susan and I have known and respected Catherine since our early blogging days. Catherine is always insightful and her Whole Family Happiness project resonated with me. I wanted to delve deeper into it.
With the Whole Family Happiness project, Catherine is posing the question, “Can a story ‘nudge’ someone to more than just reflection on an idea – can it nudge them to some sort of action, direct or indirect?”
Reading Catherine’s personal story about how she helped her family develop “whole family happiness” did just that — in fact it did more than just nudge me. Her insights into how she packed and eventually began to unpack her family’s baggage reinforced what happens over and over in my own life.
As Catherine reflects on how she and her family accumulated their baggage, she writes:
In hindsight, it’s so obvious how it happened. Assertive, affirmative choices are much easier than choices that require us to reject or negate. What to acquire, where to go: those are (relatively) easy decisions to tackle. Whatever choice you make, the result is additive; it’s positive, it’s forward movement. Deciding what to give up or what not to do or where not to go is much, much harder. Those decisions are all , in their way, negative; they represent doors that get or stay closed, roads that are not taken. We recoil from those choices, many of us, because they represent loss: the loss of things, and the loss of possibilities. “Giving up” implies a lot of things, none of them good; ‘”giving up” is surrender, defeat. Catherine Connors – The Art of Letting Go
And there it was. In one paragraph, Catherine revealed why I keep saying yes, why I keep “acquiring” when I already have too much.
As I paused and reread her words, the saying played over and over in my head, “For every yes, there is a no.” In the past few years, I have been trying to consciously stop before I say “yes” and decide if I really can afford that yes.
I have learned from experience — when your hands are full, you must put something down to pick up something else. And if you don’t, you risk dropping everything.
But I love the thrills of yes. I crave the challenges, the newness, the possibilities.
I ignore the things spilling out of my arms. I can’t resist what I don’t have yet.
So I grab the new and run with it, until it becomes heavy and old, but not finished. And I spot something else new – something even more enticing.
And on it goes.
Catherine explained why I find it so easy to take on more — acquiring is so much easier than giving up.
I have too many things in my life, tangible and intangible, some that I love, some that I need, and some that I wish I could let go.
But that purging is work. Hard work. And it requires two things I never have enough of – time and energy.
In fact, to really unpack all of my bags and sort them out, to get rid of what I don’t need and clean up what I do, I need to put down all the things. I need to take time from it all — the new, the fading and the old.
I need to answer the hard questions, the questions Catherine realized she needed to start asking:
How was I ever going to teach my kids about purposeful choice-making if we only ever asked what do we want, as a family, but not, what do we not want, and what do we not need, and what can we do just fine without, thanks? Catherine Connors – The Art of Letting Go
Can I admit something truly embarrassing?
I wrote a photography ebook two years ago. I worked for months on it. I focused. I sacrificed for it. And then it was done. Almost.
The writing is done, but I need to make the decisions about what images to use throughout the book.
You would think that would be the easy part. But for me, facing my insecurities about my photography and having to make decisions about what to use and what to cut is overwhelming.
So I procrastinate. I start and stop. I get some momentum and then a wave of self loathing knocks me over.
Since I don’t have a “client” with a hard deadline, this ebook project of mine gets continually pushed off the list. I think about it. It drives me crazy. But I keep saying yes to new projects while leaving my book unfinished.
We humans sure take our time learning — and applying — life lessons.
Every new client project I take, every wedding I book, I think about the fact that I am saying “no” to finishing my ebook. But I keep doing it.
And Catherine showed me why I keep doing it. Because it is easier.
Saying yes is easier than tackling the hard stuff, the decisions we don’t want to make, the things we need to give up, the projects we need to complete.
So now when I want to say yes, to grab that shiny thing, I will understand why I am reaching for it — why it is so darn tempting for me to reach for the new. I will consider what “no’s” will come with that “yes.” And I will do the hard work.
“We make choices meaningful… when we take seriously the prospect of the negative – when we carefully consider the thing or the path or the idea that is intentionally, purposefully being given up.” Catherine Connors – The Art of Letting Go
P.S. If you are looking for me, I will be holed up working on a certain ebook. Well, that is after I knock a couple more things off my to-do list.
This post is part of The Whole Family Happiness Project, in partnership with Social Currents and the Low Carbon Economy Narrative Initiative. The Whole Family Happiness Project poses the question, “What is the connection between our individual purpose, our family happiness, and the happiness of the world around us?”
To learn more or get involved, visit Whole Family Happiness on Facebook. #wholefamilyhappiness
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Disclosure: This post is sponsored, so extra thanks for reading and sharing.
Written by Janice Croze, co-founder of 5 Minutes for Mom
Talk with me: @5minutesformom and Facebook.com/5minutesformom
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