The Golden Grill

Note: if you are talking in public about something I find interesting, I will write about it.

On a calm Wednesday at a coffee shop I was stricken by a conversation happening next to me.  One man was showing his friend a web page on his computer. He said something like this:

“You see this? This grill is a symbol to me. I imagine my son and my wife and me cooking out with it. All of us together. I’ll teach my son to build a fire and cook with it. My wife and I will sit by it. We can talk or do something together, I don’t care what it is. But she won’t even sit with me for ten minutes, and my son won’t speak to me. This grill is a symbol of hope for what the future will be for me. The fire is a symbol of community, of us all being back together.”

My heart was in my throat.

I think we all do this, to different degrees. We all have a “golden grill” that connects us to either a real or imagined future. It’s an object (or objects) that symbolizes who and where we want to be.

I have several – a yoga mat, a clarinet, a sewing machine. All things that I imagine myself picking up at some point in the future. But I used to have a lot more.

Letting go of the future

A lot of what I’ve done so far has focused on letting go of the past – elementary school track ribbons, notes from my mythology class (why did I keep those for so long?) and last year’s planner. Minimizing, for me so far, has been about letting go of things I’ve held onto for too long.

But what about letting go of things that contain hope? Do we let go? Do we hold on?

flowersIt gets tricky. Let’s talk about my yoga mat.

I hold on to my yoga mat because, while I only use it occasionally, I am so enticed by the lifestyle it promises. I want to do a handstand. I want to be like the incredible yogis on Instagram. I hold onto it in hopes that someday I’ll wake up, get to a class, and start a daily routine. Maybe someday I can be an instructor.

Someday.

But the idea of a thing is not the thing itself. So, when you’re evaluating things that connect you to the future, ask yourself the following:

  • Is this an expensive item to replace? (Think of the great 20/20 theory from The Minimalists)
  • If it’s easily replaceable, does it take up a lot of space? If yes, ditch it.
  • Is the emotion stronger than the item? By that, I mean would you feel the same with or without the item? Is it truly relevant to what is at stake?
  • The honest question: Does intention follow the hope? Is it truly something that you can see in your future?

Is a golden grill a good idea?

Yes. I do think that if an item has a positive connection to the future, you should keep it around. However, if it serves more harm than good by taking up physical, mental and emotional space, then it’s time to move it out of your life.

Psychologically, it’s best for us to maintain a proper balance between our stuff and our relationships. While our stuff does connect us to our identity, it shouldn’t be at the sake of interpersonal interaction or of healthy goals. A post called “Self, Society, and Our Stuff” over on Psychology Today had a great line about this balance:

It seems that finding a middle ground in which objects help us learn about and express our selves while also linking us to others and the cosmos is a foundational step in navigating our relationships to objects and things.

I hope that man in the coffee shop realizes that the grill is not the real reunification of his family. The grill is not the goal.

So what’s your “golden grill”? Do you see it serving an important part in your future, or does it drag you down?

 

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A Poem Worth Sharing – Desiderata

Lake Michigan Tree

Sometimes a poem just hits you hard and you can’t stop going back to it. I find myself reading and re-reading this poem on days where I’m feeling a bit lost. I even carry a copy of it around in my planner.

It’s simple and warm and happy – everything you need in a poem when you’re in need of a pep talk. I originally found it here.

What poems or quotes do you find yourself returning to?

Desiderata

by Max Ehrmann, 1952

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Love This Pose.

I know, I know. I’m not supposed to be on Pinterest while I’m planning my wedding. But, I actually have needed to use it for work recently, and I was reintroduced to one of my greatest pet peeves on the site. You know what I’m talking about. Those pictures of beautiful people and families and newlyweds embracing in a strange how-did-they-do-that kind of way and the user-provided caption below:

Love this pose.

What bothers me so much about this? It’s the idea that these pinners are trying to mentally and digitally catalog these poses for their future photo opportunities because they want to look just like that. They want their hands to make perfect hearts and for their babies to look so happy that viewers can practically hear her giggles.

But by focusing on creating the perfect pose, they’re already taking away from future candid photo ops. They’re planning out how happy and flawless they should make themselves look rather than truly focusing on the joy of the event being photographed.

Love this pose on Pinterest

A quick search for “love this pose” on Pinterest and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Why are we really posing?

Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?

I actually had this idea brewing when Mike Burns from The Other Side of Complexity shared one of his older posts on Facebook titled “On Posing for Acceptance” While he wasn’t talking about the same style of posing, it made me think of what this means in an alternative context.

When we focus on poses, we’re putting ourselves in an unnatural state. Why do we do it? So that other people can look at us and view us as the ideal. It’s all about being seen instead of feeling or experiencing what’s going on around us (hence my general distaste for the concept of “selfies” as well).

Don’t get caught up in what the internet tells you. The internet will tell you to stand like this, walk like that, and while you’re at it change your hair color and get taller. Poses are not one-size-fits-all, and they certainly don’t look good on everyone. The only thing that looks good on everyone, unfailingly, is authenticity. (Especially if you’re a total goofball and make weird faces in every “serious” picture you try to take).

I’m not saying that you should never pause and smile for a camera. What I’m advising is that you stop collecting “poses” like they’re Pokemon (gotta catch em all) and start reveling in the moment.

Stop going through life by standing still in your favorite poses. Start moving forward, candidly and genuinely.

Don’t waste time looking for cameras.

What is your favorite photo of all time? Is it perfectly posed, or is it candid?

No Glut November

Last night I went to a beautiful wedding and saw some of my very best friends from high school. We danced and had the most amazing time, and I got through the whole afternoon and evening on three drinks. As opposed to the previous weekend’s bachelorette party where I had…more than three drinks.

I’m trying, this November, to cut out excessive and unnecessary drinking (it all really is unneccessary, isn’t it?) What that means is when I go out, I can’t drink to the point where I can’t drive, and especially can’t drink to the point where I regret it the next day. I hate the cloudy feeling I have the day after I even have just ever so slightly too much. Last night was an encouraging start to this month of moderation!

I managed to keep the drinking to a minimum by dancing without a cup in my hand (it was more fun and less mess, too), and I was sure to stick with water and an absurd amount of grapes for the last couple of hours of the reception. My friends appreciated the ride home and the bride seemed grateful to not have to deal with us being too much more rambunctious than we usually are when we’re sober. Kudos to her and her groom as well, who didn’t have a drop of alcohol to drink!

Basically, what I’m trying to do this month is to experiment with moderation in drinking. My goal is to find the perfect balance, to save a little money, and to improve my Sunday mornings (I’m not always hungover, but when I am, I tend to mope around feeling that I’m draining years from my life).

Millennials who are just out of college, like me, are probably in the same boat – at what point do you start cutting back? I don’t want to cut it out all together but it’s something that’s weighed heavily on my mind recently.

I find myself more creative after a cup of coffee or tea than I do after a glass of wine or beer. What is your favorite? Is there something you can work to improve this November? What could you give up or cut back on?

Happy November all, and congrats and the happiest of happy wishes to my beautiful friend and her new husband!

A Life Lived in Comparison

Comparison is an act of violence against the self.

~Iyanla Vanzant

Drooping FlowerI know a girl, let’s call her Stacy, who is the most graceful, beautiful creature I’ve ever seen. She’s always decked out in upscale (and likely expensive) clothes, and can pull off any look flawlessly. Over the years I’ve known her, I have learned one thing: I am not a Stacy.

I’ve tried to be a Stacy, but on a budget, by buying similar designer clothes at thrift stores, and even by going to (gasp!) malls to purchase outfits. One of my closest friends and I drool over her style choices and always ask ourselves “would she wear this?” before making the final decision on a piece of clothing. We’re living in comparison to this girl.

But then a funny thing happened. I realized that I wasn’t nearly as comfortable when I dressed like her, when I tried to act like her, and when I tried to do my makeup as well as she does hers. I realized, and you probably knew this was coming, but I realized that the more I acted like her, the more I became a fraud. I’m not poised. I’m not elegant. I’m more of a comfort-first, pink-and-sparkles kind of person. Think DJ Tanner versus Kimmy Gibbler, and I’m Kimmy.

So, my question for you today is: are you living your life in comparison to someone or some ideal?

And that’s not all. Occasional comparison is okay, in fact, it seems inevitable. But when you do compare yourself to another, are you comparing yourself to someone you’d like to be more like? Or is it someone that you can’t see yourself becoming?

I think that learning to live your life independently of what others are doing is an essential skill especially for those of us who “live” online. There’s always going to be someone more stylish than us, wealthier than us, better at blogging than us, and it’s up to us to decide how we react to that. Here’s a hint: don’t live in someone’s digital shadow.

So, to remedy my issue with comparison, I’ve been starting to compare myself to what I want to be instead of the person I’d most like to emulate. If I catch myself wasting time on Facebook or lazing about when there are things to be done, I ask myself, “would my ideal self do this? What would she do instead?” Write. Exercise. Meditate.

Challenge yourself to stop comparing yourselves to strangers, acquaintances, coworkers, and start using these comparisons to get to the bottom of what you really want out of life. Is it really fancier clothes?

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

This is an excerpt from one of my very favorite poems. The poem, When Death Comes by Mary Oliver, is a beautiful reminder to live each day with child-like wonder.

I think of that last line often. Am I just visiting this world? Or am I truly going to live here?

Wisdom Wednesday: Beautiful House

Wisdom Wednesday: Beautiful House

I’ve been infatuated with this quote since I first read it. Reflecting on it has helped immensely with paring down my belongings, and I’ve passed it on to many of my friends as well.

There’s something about knowing you’re getting closer to only the essentials that’s invigorating.