05 Feb Eating an Elephant
We moved this past week. From a house we had lived in for over 15 years. It had a ton of storage, which probably sounds great to most of you. But guess what you do with a lot of storage? You store. It brings to mind the old George Carlin routine about the American Dream of constantly buying a bigger house so that you can buy and store more “stuff”. After several moves to bigger and bigger houses and accumulating more “stuff”, the time comes when the kids are grown and gone and you need to downsize and de-junk the stuff that you so carefully saved for and accumulated over the years to store in your bigger house, because now you need to prioritize and squish it all into a much smaller house. Crazy!! We could have set up an “E” museum and charged the kiddies $5 to come view history. We unearthed VHS tapes, Nintendo games, zip drives, a Walkman, MP3 players, audio tape recorders, boom boxes, cassette tapes, and a myriad of cords, chargers, flip phones, and computer keyboards. We even had a gargantuan 40″ TV that we paid $1,500 over eight years ago! Are you kidding me? I hope that made us cool for a bit.
Some of us are more attached to our stuff than others. My husband, for instance. He’s the greatest guy in the world, but he’s attached to stuff. We have his great grandfather’s old metal box spring that he can’t part with. “We may need it someday.” His attempt at pulling at my guilty heartstrings wanting to get rid of it. Maybe he’s right. Who doesn’t want a rusty old box spring with sharp poking wires protuding from all surfaces? So we’ll keep the old relic and buy a brand new shed to store it in at the new house. And pray that the grandkids have current tetanus shots just in case. Makes sense, huh? There is a process to “downsizing” though. What you thought was so awesome and life-changing ten years ago, and were so sentimental about last week, becomes a thrift store or landfill find this week. Priorities.
Even though we did this of our own free will and choice, it’s been emotional and uprooting in many ways. An after affect has made me consider what needs to be “de-junked” from my emotional and spiritual life. If you read my post from last month on “Living Happy”, you’ll recall that happiness is a choice; a state of mind. Regardless of your circumstances, financial situation, or health, you still have the power to be happy. What is it that’s holding you back from living happy? At times in my life I would have quickly answered, “Well, that’s easy! We don’t have enough money! I’m 15 lbs over weight, or my kids don’t obey, or my husband…blah, blah, blah.” There are many people who are truly in need, debilitated, or unable to care for themselves. But the fact is, most of us have within us, a sense of rugged individualism and spirit of self-reliance to get up, get back in the saddle, and figure it out to improve our lives without waiting for someone to come save us!
I know this seems like a simplistic answer, but what if you could improve yourself just 5% by changing your attitude? Wouldn’t that be awesome? Recently, I spoke with a doctor who gave me some alarming statistics. He said that of the hundreds of patients he observed on Prozac, that half were given a placebo. But because these patients “thought” they were taking the drug, they immediately felt better. There was only a 10% marked improvement between the patients on Prozac and those on a sugar pill. And the Prozac patients had a higher incidence of heart problems! Am I suggesting you dump your meds? Not in the least! What I’m suggesting is that we have immense power within ourselves to change our mental and physical state simply by changing our philosophy, or the way we think. De-junking our minds of clutter and the “what ifs” that can literally scare us to death.
Now I don’t pretend to know you or your life and the hardships you’ve been dealt, but I do know that each day brings a clean slate and a choice to write a little better personal story. One way to do that is to serve someone less fortunate. In the middle of our move, we stopped at Sprouts to get a sandwich. We were eating and wailing about the mounds of boxes when we overheard a frustrated woman on her cell rather frantically as she spoke into the phone. “Well, you were the one who chose to burn it down! And now I have nowhere to go! I have nothing!” My husband and I looked humbly at each other and realized we were being selfish and whiney. Our plight would soon pass. When would hers? Unfortunately, just as we decided to slip her some money, she had vanished. Where would she go? I was ashamed at my self-absorption. What had I done that very day to lift another? Sobering. And the funny thing is, self-absorption always brings unhappiness and emptiness.
So, how do you eat an elephant? Yup. One bite at a time. Don’t try to change every aspect of your life. Do some little and seemingly insignificant things. Smile at someone. Give them a hand. Open a door, let someone cut in front of you on the road. Forgive someone. Forgive yourself. Or… Come help me empty some boxes! Live happy America!