What You See

October 14, 2021

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”  Henry David Thoreau

How many times have you looked at that pile, or is it a room full, of clutter?  What do you see?  Unfinished work?  Memories too burdensome to weed through?  Stuff you can’t deal with, like papers, photos, or clothes? 

Whatever it is, self-deprecating, self-denigrating, critical thoughts light up like a Christmas tree inside most of us.  You may not be aware of them because they are so deeply buried inside.  Those thoughts have a way of blinding and binding your gentle, vulnerable, compassionate self.  Most of us quickly avert our eyes and think of something more pressing, more pleasant, or more peaceful to address. 

Change Your Perspective

But, what if you were to look at that pile or room in a different way?  What if you were to drop the self-judgment and try to understand that there are/were reasons the clutter appeared?  Usually, the item, later termed as clutter, is something that’s going to take time, thought or energy to deal with—time, thought or energy you don’t have to give at that moment you put the item or items down.  Dealing with it may even feel onerous.  Of course, the more onerous it feels, the less likely you are to address it.  So, items accumulate, and the pile grows with a heavy, dense energy.    

What’s important, though, is that you felt you couldn’t deal with it.  That’s the root of the issue.  Many organizers claim it’s irrelevant to explore that issue—just focus on the stuff.  I disagree.  Yes, you can clear out the stuff.  You can organize the stuff.  You can donate the stuff, but guess what?  The stuff will reappear.  Maybe not that week, or that month, but it will return because the root of the issue hasn’t been dealt with.

Be Kind

Perhaps the first step is to be gentle with yourself.  There are issues at play—some trauma, loss, upset, or disturbance that causes you to say “No!” to putting things away, dealing with whatever is lying in that pile.  Admit there is something that’s blocking you from clearing the way.  Then, start slowly handling the items in your pile.  Maybe only one or two at first.  Take definitive action with those one or two items.  Hang up that coat.  File that piece of paper.  Pay that bill.  Then call it a day. 

Instead of seeing the remaining pile of stuff, take consolation in your taking action. You started the process. Commit to doing it again tomorrow.  As you do this, be open to what thoughts come up for you.  Maybe you’ll get insight as to what issue is causing the clutter.  Let go of the judgments and harsh words you splatter on yourself.  Replace them with congratulations.  You took a step in taking care of yourself.  Don’t look at the static clutter, rather see yourself moving in a positive direction, because you are.     

A Glass of Water

August 19, 2021

Fill a glass with 8 ounces of water.  Hold it in your hand with your arm extended.  Hold it for a minute.  Hold it for two minutes, then three.  How does it feel after three minutes?  You say, “Increasingly heavier.  I don’t want to hold it for much longer.”  But you didn’t add any more water to the glass.  How could that be?

This glass of water, to me, is a perfect metaphor for the energy of the past.  Holding on to the past can get heavy.  Whether it be sad childhood memories, fraught relationships with family, friends, or lovers, or mementos that bring about negative feelings, these can weigh you down often unwittingly. 


The Memory Evokes a Feeling

Clutter is the ideal example of energy of the past.  Five years ago, you bought a beautiful, expensive dress to wear to your daughter’s wedding; however, now your daughter has split from her husband, and the dress isn’t as flattering as it once was on you.  It’s not even in style anymore, and you haven’t worn it since that fateful day.  But you keep it because the memory of buying and wearing the dress evokes the memory of a joyous moment in time—a time that has passed.

And, dare I ask?  Have you felt that joyous lately?  Many hold onto items like this dress because for a brief moment, when they dig it out of their closet, they believe they can relive that feeling they had when they wore the dress.  And for how long?  Is it worth holding onto to that piece of fabric, so you can conger up a feeling that may be a meager remnant of what really was? 

Creating Space for Now

Could you let go of the dress and still have the feeling?  Or perhaps the better question to ask is “What are you doing now to have more joyous moments?”  You can’t recreate the excitement of your daughter’s wedding five years ago—planning the event, helping her buy her dress, dressing for the wedding, walking down the aisle as the mother of the bride.  These were moments in time that are passed. 

What you have is the present.  By clearing items that no longer serve you, that no longer inspire you to live life now, you create space for new energy, new fun, new joys to enter.  The energy of the past gets heavier, the longer you hold onto it.  Just like the glass of water, after a while the pain becomes difficult to bear.  Let it go, and you’ll feel lighter, freer and ready right now to meet those joyous moments.

Resistance or Resilience?

March 15, 2021

I had a tiff with my workout trainer.  He was 25 minutes late starting a session.  Always ready for a reprieve when it comes to exercise, I texted to pass.  Shortly thereafter, he cancelled another session with no reason—just that “I can’t make it.”  I felt I merited an explanation and asked at the end of our next full session. 

He uses Skype to do virtual workout sessions.  In response to my question, he explained that some people have technical difficulties connecting with him and that this delays ending some sessions on time and causing subsequent ones to start late…

And, then he added forcefully, “If you are unhappy with this, I will happily refund you the remainder of your payment.  You can find another trainer.”  I persisted and asked what happened when he cancelled in the morning a couple days later our subsequent afternoon session.  He responded, “I couldn’t make it.”  And repeated, “I will happily refund the remainder of your payment.”  This all occurred within two minutes. 

I was stunned.  He was quick to escalate my questioning to ending our relationship.  I asked for an explanation, not a severing of our client-trainer connection.  He has been my trainer for more than two years, and he does a great job knowing what I am capable of doing and not doing, what diverse exercises are best for me, and what proper form enhances the benefits of an exercise.  He is an essential component of my weekly life, not to mention my health and wellbeing. 

I ended the conversation asking him to understand that I have a schedule, too, and to be sensitive to that.  We agreed that we would see each other in a couple of days for my next workout. 

The Aftermath

Initially I was pissed.  And then I concluded, my angry feelings were not helping me.  His skill, time and attention were what I wanted and superseded the emotional fallout of this momentary shutdown.  I still wanted them in spite of the occasional cancellation or inability to meet.

I’ll admit I am always seeking to forge closer relationships with the individuals I have enlisted for help.  This trainer will have none of that.  His most recent behavior has helped me to see things in a different way.  For example, after particularly difficult exercises, I have told him that that was demanding, painful or I just didn’t like it.  In fact, on one occasion, I said, “I extremely disliked that one.”  He responded by labeling my comments as complaints.  I said they weren’t complaints, just observations. 

Well, that exchange popped into my thoughts after our most recent tiff.  In conversing with myself, I discovered he might have a point.  Am I resisting his expertise?  What if I didn’t comment?  What if I stopped telling myself it was hard, painful, and I can’t wait until it’s over?  What if I just focused on the exercise?  It takes energy to think those thoughts and even more to articulate them.  And even more if I am waiting for a response.  I might be able to master the exercise more easily if I held my comments.  I might be able to enjoy the workout just a little more. 

So, I made a decision.  Quit resisting.  Go with his directions.  See how resilient I can be.    

In Need of a Deadline

March 13, 2021

It was the vacuum cleaner.  I pulled it out of its closet home to do a thorough sweep of my living room, dining room and stairwell.  Set in an area between the living room and dining room, it would surely remind me throughout the day to vacuum the place.  I live by myself in a one-bedroom condo. 

That was in August 2020, well into our COVID lockdown, but it wasn’t until October that I finally decided to use it.  The vacuum cleaner was stoically telling me, “Use me!” but I couldn’t hear it.  In fact, I told it consistently, “Tomorrow!” 

Since mid-March 2020, my sense of time has gone to hell.  I thought I would have large swaths of time to accomplish all those things I have wanted to do for years—like clean out my closets, de-clutter my kitchen, go through boxes of old photos, letters, mementos and reconnect with friends of long ago with long meandering conversations.  All that and more didn’t happen. 

Starting Off with Goals

I had started the year with three goals:  complete my taxes, redo my will, and renovate my kitchen.  Goal #1 was achieved.  I had no choice unless I wanted to break the law.  I had a deadline.  Goal #2 was a bit more challenging.  To complete my will, I had to meet with a lawyer, which I did in early January, well before the shutdown.  She told me exactly what I needed to do.  Once I completed those steps like identify beneficiaries. power of attorney and advance medical directives, we could meet again, sign the papers and wrap it up. No problem.

I did do the work of identifying beneficiaries and changing the names on various accounts.  I did identify my power of attorney, got agreement and put her name in place.  I did review the medical directives and figured when I am ready to go to the great beyond, life support will be removed.  I was accomplishing what I set out to do in 2020.

The Inability to Move

Then came COVID-19.  The world sunk into a cloud of abeyance and I felt cloaked in lethargy.  Not knowing what to do, I did nothing.  Instead, I danced with the denial of my death.  That denial was probably more subconscious than conscious.  I knew I would eventually get to the will.  After all I paid the lawyer a bunch of money to write the thing.  I wasn’t going to leave it hanging indefinitely, but tomorrow seemed like a good day to get all the details in place. 

Months elapsed, and the papers stayed in my folder.  My vacuum cleaner came out of the closet and waited.  No friends stopped by, no classes held in my living room, no activity except grocery store-runs…no deadlines and no reason to do much.  And my decision to renovate my kitchen (Goal #3) was put on hold.  No vaccinations, no kitchen redo.  Life turned into ZOOM meetings and phone conversations, but only with those close in.  I had no energy to engage with those friends of long ago.

The Awakening

Finally, it clicked!   I had to set my own deadlines.  I had to decide what and who I was willing to give my energy to.  I was the only one to do it.  My vacuum cleaner tried to send the message, but I wasn’t receiving it.  Now a year later after the initial COVID lockdown, my tax information has been submitted to my accountant.  I am about to put my signature on the final papers of my will next week.  And I am beginning to find contractors for the kitchen.  I give all the credit to my vacuum cleaner! 

Months ago, when Tavis Smiley was still on television, he interviewed English actor and producer David Oyelowo. Mr. Oyelowo may be best known for his role as Martin Luther King, Jr. in the biographical drama Selma. When Tavis asked him what criteria he uses to take on a role, he shared three simple words: Part, Project, and People.

That caught my attention. Could it really be that simple? Had I assessed these components when I agreed to work for the National Security Agency (NSA) or for Lutheran Resources Commission-Washington (LRC-W), both in the 1970s, could I have saved myself the heartache of a joyless job or a controlling boss? It sure sounds like a simple panacea except—and this is a big exception—I didn’t have wisdom to ask the deeper questions or the judgment to look at the whole picture. I only saw the carrot, not the stick it was dangling from.

You Never Know

When I said yes to NSA, I didn’t know I would be sequestered five days a week in a building with the blinds closed. I sure didn’t know the project I was hired for would fail, which meant 25 Russian translators were farmed out to other parts of the agency where we listened to garbled intercepted conversations eight hours a day.

So, when LRC-W chose to hire me as a consultant, helping church groups write proposals, I was thrilled. No more rocking back and forth between Russian syllables to make sure I got the right word. I could use my native tongue—English! However, I learned quickly my boss wouldn’t let me consult with clients over the phone. In the mid-1970s, every long-distance call was itemized. Since I couldn’t explain over the phone my reasons for why it would be beneficial to emphasize certain points and minimize others in a grant proposal, I would write five- to six-page letters. I poured myself into those letters, except—and this is a big exception—my boss said my letters were too long. His were a page or two.

It was when he asked me to be the secretary for the two weeks while the secretary went on vacation that I put my foot down. My title was Program Consultant and my response was, “Hire a temp.” He, of course, didn’t ask the other consultant, who was male, to take her place. My unobliging response, you may have guessed, led to my demise. I was dismissed a month later.

Lessons Had to Be Learned

Now that I am older, I believe those jobs were meant for me. The lessons that came with them were painful, very painful indeed, but those jobs were neither a mistake nor a waste of time. Early on signals flashed—I failed the lie detector test first time around—but I couldn’t heed them. I would have to get up by 5:00 AM to make it by 6:00 AM to the bus stop to start work by 7:15 AM. Comments were made by friends who loved me; they questioned my decision to work for an intelligence agency. These signals should have told me something. Instead my 20+ year-old ego shouted it knew better.

I knew nothing about what I was getting into. I was too timid to ask what kind of work I would be doing. It was Top Secret, hush-hush. No information was available on the work I would be doing (my part), the project or the people. What I did know is that they would pay for part of my graduate school tuition and that sounded like a good deal to me.

In contrast, LRC-W seemed like a breath of fresh air after the confined and clandestine work of NSA. I interviewed with the Executive Director, who informed me of the nature of the work and the responsibilities he would expect if I were hired. He seemed nice enough and the work sounded interesting; I may have even chatted a brief hello with the other two staff members, the secretary and other consultant. But, did I ask them about their work—what they liked about it or why they chose to work there? No, I did not. Did I understand the purpose of the organization and how they helped their clients? Well, sort of, but not completely, even though I was handed a bunch of papers describing LRC-W’s work to take home and read through.

A few days after the interview I was hired. I could now talk about my work when I couldn’t before (at NSA). I could now walk to work instead of commuting up and down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. I could start work at 9:00 AM rather than catch a 6:00 AM bus. It seemed like a win-win, except—and this is a big exception—I hadn’t done my homework. I hadn’t explored sufficiently the nature of the work I would be doing. I didn’t know the people I would be working with. I didn’t truly grasp the impact this organization had on others. I lasted a year.

My Advice

Try not to be taken in by the glitz and glam of a project or the perks offered. Get clear about the part you will play. Will there be opportunity for you to grow? Does the project get you excited or do you feel ho-hum, or worse, unclear? Check out the people you will work with and for. Even though you’ll never know how it is to work with these people until you are there, what’s your gut feel? What do others say about your prospective boss and colleagues?

When you are going for that next job, new consultancy or new client, remember David Oyelowo’s three words: Part, Project and People. And then do your homework.

Consider drawing a comparison between the act of de-cluttering and washing dishes.  Here’s what Geneen Roth wrote about washing dishes in her book Women Food and God:

“…If you focus on getting the dishes done so that your kitchen will be clean, you miss everything that happens between dirty and clean.  The warmth of the water, the pop of the bubbles, the movements of your hand.  You miss the life that happens in the middle zone—between now and what you think your life should be like.  And when you miss those moments because you’d rather be doing something else, you are missing your own life.  Those moments are gone.  They will never come back.”

Whether our clutter is in the middle of the living room or hidden away in a storage unit, how often have we’ve told ourselves, “If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of all this stuff, I’ll be free!”?  Heaving it all into a trash bag seems like such a tidy solution, but it doesn’t solve the clutter issue.  In fact, it will most likely come back and probably with a vengeance.  If we are determined to deal with our clutter, we must immerse our hands in the stuff we’ve accumulated from the past.  We must pull it apart piece by piece, admire it or disparage it, and determine what to do with it.

When we focus on the present, the clutter right before our very eyes, rather than on the shame or embarrassment for having it, we have the opportunity to be curious about ourselves.  Roth writes, “You become curious about feelings and sensations.  You start listening to your body.  You stop bossing yourself around…”  We enter into the sensual moment, what she calls the middle zone.  We touch, smell, see, hear and maybe even taste the no longer fresh or crisp past.  Is it a bit stale, maybe even rancid?  Dusty or crumbling?  Wrinkled or torn?

The Crux of the Issue

Take the example of paper clutter.  Let’s say we’re dealing with a pile of disparate papers; some are unpaid bills and financial papers; others uncompleted drafts of short story we’ve written; still others are cards and notes from friends. Just looking at that pile can evoke a tightness in our solar plexus or an uptick in our heart rate.  These physical feelings we usually ignore, or if they’re too distressing, we’ll shove them into the deepest sinews of our body.

Many of us can’t wait to jump into that pool of self-condemnation, the leap from the physical to the mental.  How am I going to pay for that water heater?  I still have to update my will.  I’ll never be a good writer, so why even try to finish that short story.  All those cards from friends I must write to or at least call!  That harsh litany of self-castigation is painful.  We want to avoid it, and this is where we get stuck!

Roth nails this situation so well in her book:  “If you get stuck, it’s usually because you’re having a reaction to a particular feeling—you don’t want to feel this way, you’d rather be happy right now, you don’t like people who feel like this—or you’re locked into [a] comparing/judging mode.”

She distinguishes between feelings, which are in the body, and reactions, which are in the head.  “A reaction is a mental deduction of a feeling…In an attempt not to feel what is uncomfortable, the mind will often rant and ramble and tell us how awful it all is.”  And that is the crux of the issue!

The Energy of Feelings

Dealing with clutter often, if not always, evokes uncomfortable feelings.  It’s dealing with the undealt with—the stuff we didn’t want to deal with when it first appeared.  Not everything has to be acted on when it first shows up, but eventually action is called for.  And if we don’t handle it, someone else will have to.  You can choose.

But what if we allow ourselves to feel uncomfortable?  Why not honor the uncomfortable feeling?  Where does it show up in our body?  Does it have a color?  How big is it?  Is it moving or stationery?  Is it hard or soft?  Does it have a shape?  Ask these questions and any others that come to mind.  Give yourself time to sink into it.  Breathe into it.  When we do that, we are in the middle zone.

A feeling has energy.  By honoring it, we allow it free expression. If we were to anthropomorphize it, it would most certainly want to speak its mind.  Once it had its say (and one time might not be enough), it would lose the air it needs to speak, like an inflated balloon whose opening is no longer knotted.  It becomes flat and lifeless, allowing us to move forward.

Asking for Help

If it still seems difficult to face the feelings clutter evokes, then get help.  If you have a trusted friend or family member who can serve as an objective witness to your facing your clutter, enlist his or her help.  If you believe a professional de-clutterer will serve you more effectively, don’t hesitate to call on one.  But sometimes the feelings blocking you are deep and complex.  If they continue to impede your progress, seek the help of a therapist.

Physical feelings and mental reactions are all part of the de-cluttering process.  Deciding whether to throw our clutter into a trash bag or “donate” box is just one aspect.  To get at the root of the clutter issue, a holistic approach is needed.  Even though our goal may be a clear, clean, clutter-free space, we benefit the most when we immerse ourselves in the present, letting the past drift off into the ethers and the future approach at its own pace.  We live our richest life when we’re in the middle zone.  Maybe we should all wash more dishes to get there.

A Modern Viewpoint

January 18, 2018

Clutter—Let me free associate for a moment:

  • Stuff not being used, but someday I’ll need it;
  • Things once considered valuable because my parents treasured them;
  • Something someone could use but since I don’t know who, I’ll postpone doing anything about it;
  • Something I could get money for, but trying to navigate E-bay is way too much trouble;
  • My children’s toys saved for my grandchildren, except my children are too busy building their careers to build a family;
  • Clothes that no longer fit, but someday I am going to lose that weight;
  • Clothes no longer in style, but I paid a lot of money for that suit (I can’t just donate it!);
  • Papers I might need to prove who I am, what I’ve achieved or what is due me but are really of no value;
  • A hodgepodge of items I need to put into order, but, gosh, I just don’t have the time to do that…

You get the idea. Note the rationales used with each one.

Recently I had the pleasure of seeing Arthur Miller’s play “The Price” at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. So moved, I borrowed a copy from the library so I could delve into Miller’s deep-felt, profound yet simple words. Here’s one quotation that hit home for me:

Setting the Scene

Victor in his late forties is responsible for emptying his father’s brownstone apartment because the building is going to be demolished. Time is of the essence. The house must be emptied within the next day or so. His father died years ago, but Victor chose not to deal with the apartment or anything in it until the moment the play begins. The curtain opens to the living area filled with furniture and artifacts that represent his father and mother when they were alive. Victor is joined by 89-year old appraiser Solomon, whom he found in the Yellow Pages of the phone book (circa 1968). We learn as the play progresses that Solomon’s career in estate sales was over until Victor called him to buy his father’s estate.

At one point, Victor is afraid Solomon is going to cheat him. Solomon explains why much of the furniture probably won’t sell:

“I’m giving you the architectural facts! Listen—wiping his face, he seizes on the library table, going to it—You got there, for instance, a library table. That’s a solid beauty. But go find me a modern apartment with a library. If they would build old hotels, I could sell this, but they only build new hotels. People don’t live like this no more. This stuff is from another world. So I’m trying to give you a modern viewpoint, and if you wouldn’t understand the viewpoint, it’s impossible to understand the price.”

Old Hotels

Solomon makes a good point: They’re not building old hotels anymore, yet so many of us are attracted to “old hotels” and what filled them. Old hotels are our rosy memories—the romantic ideal that we aspire to recreate. The not-so-rosy memories attached to those items we’ve more than likely repressed and forgotten.

But guess what? If we take a moment to examine the items that evoke a rosy glow, we discover a dark side to them as well. For example, the exquisite wedding dress that symbolizes a marriage ended in divorce or the outrageously gorgeous and expensive Stuart Weitzman shoes that are a killer to walk in for more than five minutes.

We want to sit in the lobby of those old hotels, sipping tea and savoring the grandeur of it all, but how long can we sit there? How does sitting in that lobby enhance our present life? The same is true for those items and the rosy memories we attach to them. We  might be able to recreate the happy memory for a moment, but not for long.

It’s All about Viewpoint

Those memories are ephemeral, but the items are real. We can’t bring back your father sitting in his Lazy-Boy chair or your mother wearing her mink stole, yet we’ve decided to hold onto both the chair and the stole because we’re able to slip into a rosy reverie whenever we see them. Meanwhile your wife or roommate can’t stand the stodgy old Lazy-Boy and we discover the skin of the mink stole is dry and cracked. That dark side I mentioned above keeps popping up!

Perhaps we need to let go of our illusions—things that are or are likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses. We perceive the items we are holding onto as valuable for whatever rationale we ascribe to them. When we crack the illusion, the items are just things—a dress, a pair of shoes, a chair or a mink stole. Do these items enhance our present life? If we were unabashedly honest, we would say, “No!”

It all comes back to viewpoint. Why hold onto something passed its prime? Why keep straddling the past and present? Our life is here now. Our power is in the present. We need a modern viewpoint.

Empowered or Disempowered?

September 27, 2017

Many people are afraid of Tarot card readings. They think it’s some dark omen that augurs the future. That belief always surprises me, especially when you realize that a Tarot card is just a piece of paper with picture on it. I liken it to a Rorschach test—pictures we’re asked to interpret.

I have been interpreting Tarot cards the last 12 years. If you were to come to me for a reading, here’s how I would see it:

1. You have a question. For example, Is this the right time for me to sell my house? Will I get a promotion before the end of the year?

2. You come to the reading with a certain energy around that question. You may or may not be aware of that energy. The cards have a mysterious way of tapping into your subconscious energy, which, by the way, holds a powerhouse of information. It may hold information your conscious self denies.

3. Next, you pick one or more cards with that question in mind. Each card has a certain energy and meaning. If more than one card is picked to answer the question, they may be put into a spread. Each position in a spread usually has a certain meaning. A simple spread could be Past, Present and Future.

4. You end up with a convergence of energy: the energy you bring to the reading about that question, the card’s meaning and the position’s meaning. Those three components comprise the interpretation and an answer to your specific question.

What?  You Don’t Like What the Cards Say?

Perhaps you don’t like the card that you pulled for the Future. You have choices in how to respond: You can stomp away in frustration (and say, “It’s all hogwash!”), or you can pull additional cards to explore what is meant by that Future card. Those additional cards can provide more information on how to best deal with a situation that initially looked unfavorable in your eyes at the moment of the reading.

When you pick Tarot cards in a reading, it reflects the energy of your behavior up to that moment. This is an important point many do not understand. The cards are giving you a head’s-up. If they are telling you not to sell your house even though you are hell-bent on selling it when you came to the reading, it’s worth your attention to stop and consider the issue more deeply. Perhaps there are issues you haven’t considered. What are the pitfalls? Could you get a higher return if you wait? Perhaps more repairs need to be done before putting it on the market. Or innumerable other variables you may not have considered or probed deeply enough.

We are so pummeled with bad news, hostile exchanges, and fear-mongering that when we come for a Tarot card reading or any other so-called fortune telling medium, we are quick to give our power away, especially if the reading isn’t to our liking or expectations. Laura Day, the author of several self-help books that focus on intuition, puts it this way:

“…people get really confused about precognition—telling the future. The way people use it is often damaging. If I hear I’m going to have a car accident, for example, I don’t wait in terror for it to happen. I ask, What are the circumstances? Who am I with at the time? What day is it? What color is the car? I look for those things and then I do my best to avoid the accident.”

You Are an Infinitely Powerful Being

A Tarot card reading may not be able to answer all those questions, but it gives us clues we can spot, especially if we listen to our intuition. Those clues can spur us to make different and more thoughtful choices. Those choices can then lead us to more propitious outcomes, significantly better outcomes than had we let things unfold on their own. When we take charge of our choices, we end up feeling empowered and confident for having taken good care of ourselves.

My meditation teacher keeps telling me, “You are so much more powerful than you can imagine.” Laura Day says, “…every one of us is an infinitely powerful being. So as you work with intuition, remember that you can also make choices that can change those predictions.”

So, when you choose to go for a Tarot card reading, know that the cards are simply a tool to give you information you may not be fully aware of. They reflect your energy at the moment of the reading, not necessarily your energy in the next week or next month, especially if you start making choices and taking action different from those before.

I believe the cards are meant to help you. You’ll know the next best steps to take when you let your intuition absorb what the cards have to say. Make Tarot cards your friend, not your foe. Use them to empower yourself, because you are an infinitely powerful being!

The thrust of this story is that a woman committed to sign up for one of my classes. The fact is she ghosted me. So, what happened?

A woman I didn’t know called asking about the services my business ALIGN offers. She wanted help with clearing her clutter—not her physical clutter, but the mental, emotional and spiritual clutter she has been grappling with. I offer a class called “Consciously Clearing Your Clutter, Uncovering the Subconscious Reasons for Your Clutter.” Although the focus of this class is ultimately on clearing physical clutter, much of the class helps people identify their intangible attachments to it.

For the past several weeks preceding the call, my attention had been and continues to be focused on re-branding my business. ALIGN currently works with three different tools: clutter, tarot and essential oils. It had been 12 years since I launched ALIGN. I was in the process of clarifying what aspects of my business are important to me.

During this re-branding process I rediscovered my passion for clearing clutter. Physical clutter is an important issue, because it literally covers a host of feelings no one wants to look at. But the more insidious clutter is the mental, emotional and spiritual clutter that we contend with day in and day out.

For the most part, we go about our days unaware of the stuff that fills our minds and hearts. The woman who called, we’ll call her Judy, wanted help with this kind of clutter. She was in town for only a few weeks. Could I help her now? Yes!

What One Phone Call Will Do

This one call was all I needed to create a class that would address the issue of intangible clutter. I was on it! In one week I gathered my thoughts and resources. I developed a four-session agenda, the class objectives and the handouts for the first session. The class is called “It’s an Inside Job! Consciously Clearing the Clutter within You.” I was ready!

Judy said she would call me back a few days after the initial call. She didn’t. I called her. She answered the call and said she couldn’t meet on the upcoming weekend because she had a friend coming to visit her from out of town.

She promised to call me Saturday morning to set a meeting time. No call Saturday morning. When I called her the next day, she agreed to meeting Thursday at 5:00 pm. Subsequently I sent her an e-mail asking her to consider a few questions before coming to class.

Thursday at 5:00 pm came and went. No Judy. The next morning I discovered she had sent me an e-mail a few hours before our agreed-upon time telling me she couldn’t make it. She indicated she had time to meet during the next few days. I responded using both e-mail and phone and asked her to call or text me. No text. No call. No response during the following 24 hours.

I finally got the message. Judy wasn’t coming.

Once I Knew I Was Ghosted

First, I was ticked off! Why string me along? She could have said, “I’ve decided I don’t want to take the class.” Instead, her cat-and-mouse approach drew me in and pushed me away several times until I finally figured out she wasn’t coming.

I confess I stewed on this awhile—a couple days, until I stumbled across a segment of the book I am currently reading, The Spontaneous Healing of Belief by Gregg Braden. Substantial information precedes the following quotation, but you’ll get the gist:

“Unresolved negative feelings that underlie chronic hurt—our beliefs—have the power to create the physical conditions that we recognize as cardiovascular disease: tension, inflammation, high blood pressure and clogged arteries.”

Braden goes on to cite researcher Tim Laurence from the Hoffman Institute in England, whose research shows that the potential impact of our failure to heal and forgive old hurts and disappointments cuts us off from good health. Laurence’s research indicated that “teaching people to ‘tone down’ their emotional responses to life situations could prevent heart attacks.”

This segment by Braden gave me pause. I needed to let go of the negative feelings I was harboring by being ghosted. I needed to move on. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Her behavior taps into memories and feelings of being ghosted in the past. It became imminently apparent I had to forgive Judy and forgive her now! Staying healthy is my priority.

The Bigger Picture

Braden’s words helped me to understand the bigger picture of this interchange between Judy and me. I believe Judy sincerely wanted to let go of her internal clutter. Otherwise, why would she have called me? Unfortunately she just wasn’t ready to do the work it required.

The few questions I sent her in advance of the class tipped her off and triggered her fearful “I’m in” and “I’m out” response. I suspect she wasn’t totally conscious of her handling of the situation, let alone the impact it had on me. Still I would have liked to have helped her.

The Bonus

Judy was the impetus for me to develop this class—a class I will launch within the next couple of months. I have her to thank for galvanizing me into action. This is the bonus of having had this brief encounter with her. I am grateful for it.

“They” say that you teach what you need to learn. Healing myself of the internal clutter that blocks me from living a happy and love-filled life is the work I must do. If I can do it, then I can help others do it, too.

All I could see was red. That’s what happened when my freshman college English professor Mrs. Nesselhof handed back an essay I and my classmates had been assigned to write. In that instant, when I saw all those red marks, I felt a “Scarlet I” had been imprinted on my chest and definitely in my mind. The “I” stood for INCOMPETENT! Now I had proof. I can’t write. The grade was irrelevant, probably a C or C-, but the message was not. So, so many red marks!

Fifty years later, I have not been able to erase the red stain from my memory. It has nestled itself in the recesses of my brain. To excavate it would mean major surgery, and I’m not sure I want to go that route. I just have to deal with it.

The Fragility of a Young Mind

I share this moment because we all need to be conscious of the fragility of young people’s minds. I am sure Mrs. Nesselhof was doing her best to let me know I could write better than I did. She had high standards and wanted me to perform at that level. But all those red marks did not propel me to the higher level she aspired for all her students. Instead they sent me straight into the halls of insecurity, a place from which I have struggled to escape for lo these many years.

Going back even farther, I have a vague recollection from high school. I was one of a few chosen seniors to prepare for the English Advanced Placement test. If I tested well, I could get placed in a more advanced English class in college. For some reason, as we prepped for the test, I was dropped from the group. I was never clearly informed as to why, but obviously my writing didn’t make the grade. My writing just wasn’t good enough.

A Way Around It

In an effort to succeed, I shifted my focus from English to foreign languages. I first chose French and later Russian. I figured I might be better able to communicate in a foreign language than in my own Mother tongue. It’s convoluted, I know. To communicate in another language you have so much to deal with—the mechanics of the language, the vocabulary, and the culture. What was I thinking? The mind is a curious thing. I could somehow handle all the red marks on those papers. After all, I was in the process of learning the language. I could forgive myself for my mistakes.

After I graduated from college, my initial goal was to become a translator. Using money my grandmother left me in her will, I studied French in Geneva, Switzerland, for a year and then French and Russian in Paris, France for the next year. During the summer in between I studied Russian with a group of American college students in what was at that time called the Soviet Union. After my two years abroad, I came home and enrolled in a Masters program in Russian Language and Literature. No longer wanting to be a translator, I set my sights on becoming a professor of Russian literature. Sounds impressive, but I graduated feeling I still had much more to learn in order to be fluent in Russian and to qualify as a professor.

A Detour

After my first year in the Masters program, I got a job as a Russian analyst at the National Security Agency (NSA). It may sound cool that I secured a Top Secret clearance and was doing work using Russian, but NSA and I were not meant to be together. Alas, deciphering intercepted, always garbled, Russian telephonic messages was something I could not do day in and day out. The blinds in the office were always closed because it was believed a scruffy band of Russians might be hiding in a copse of trees not far from our building. Why? They might be targeting laser beams at our windows. With those beams they could intercept our conversations. By shutting the blinds, we could not only block their efforts but the sunshine from our daily life. Did anyone ever see those Russians? Not while I was there!

I had accepted the NSA job to help pay for my schooling. In my naiveté I must have thought using Russian in a job like that would help me cement my knowledge of the language. In hindsight I discovered it wasn’t the language I was so enamored with. It was the stories written by those 19th century authors like Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol and the torrid relationships they described.

Returning to English

After two years of being sequestered in a windowless room, listening to conversations that showed no signs of espionage, I resigned. That’s when I ended up writing English again. My first stop was a non-profit organization, where I wrote four- to six paged single-spaced, typewritten letters to clients. In an effort to cut corners, the boss didn’t want staff making long-distance telephone calls. This was in the mid-1970s when each minute of a long-distance call cost money. My colleague and I had to resort to writing letters.

The job entailed helping people write grants to private foundations. Since grant applications can be complex, especially when describing ideas that may only be in their formative stage, my letters had to convey creative ways that would help clients make a convincing argument for their project’s need for financial support. This meant I had to write clearly and in an organized fashion. Mrs. Nesselhof never entered my mind. If I was going to keep that job, I had to write those letters and on an IBM Selectric typewriter no less.

My next move was with a higher education association—a move that led me to working in four professional associations during the next 15 years. Each job required me to write countless agendas, meeting minutes, letters, convention programs and even a published magazine article. The writing seemed so straightforward that I never questioned my ability to write. I analyzed, synthesized and summarized issues as well as other people’s writing.

One memorable moment was when one association president called me into his office regarding a letter I had written on his behalf. The intent of the letter was to counter another association president’s opinion on the issue of higher education accreditation. I thought he was going to criticize how I worded the letter. I was shocked to discover he wanted to compliment me on how diplomatically I conveyed his perspective. My fear of his criticism showed me just how stealthily Mrs. Nesselhof lived in my psyche.

If I Had Just Listened to My Mother

Writing this blog causes me to remember the several times my mother said I ought to write. When I was a child, she instilled the notion of writing thank you letters to anyone who gave me a gift. Each letter I wrote was always personal and conversational. I would take time to think about the gift, what it meant to me, how I was going to use it, and thank the giver for his/her thoughtfulness in giving this specific gift to me. She saw something in my thank you notes that was worth encouraging.

She, of course, was my mother and what do mothers know? Once I met Mrs. Nesselhof, I concluded my mother was just plain biased. Now, 50 years later, I wish I had heeded her encouragement. Here I am writing this blog and feeling vulnerable. I’ve gained confidence over the years, but the specter of Mrs. Nesselhof shows up periodically to nudge me to higher heights and also to question how competent I am. Someday I’ll tell her to “sit on a tack,” but until I do, I guess I’ll just keep writing.