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.

This is the third in a three-part series on seeking life purpose. The first was posted on April 7 and the second on April 18, 2017.

A friend of mind came to me asking about her life purpose. A favorite way for me to explore complex issues like this one is using Tarot cards. She picked seven cards for a spread called “My Blind Spot.” Three, in particular, caught my attention.

In my first blog of this series we looked at the card she pulled for the position of “Blind Spot” – the Eight of Pentacles. The second blog examines the position of “What I don’t know, but everyone else does.” For that she pulled the King of Pentacles.

Even though these cards relate directly to my friend and her question, they may hold relevance for you as well. Since the cards and their meaning are all connected to each other in a spread, you may find it helpful to check out the two other blogs in this series.

At Last—A Feminine Counterpoint

The third card in my friend’s spread was the Queen of Cups. It landed in the position of “Insight.” Insight is the ability to see intuitively or to understand the inner nature of things. A card in this position can help us discern a deeper understanding of what was uncovered in the previous two cards and causes us to look at the situation through a different lens.

How interesting that a female figure shows up this time, and instead of a pentacle, she holds a cup. She is quite a contrast to the men in both the Eight and King of Pentacles. Let’s explore the differences as well as the details of the card.

First, she’s a queen! She has power and it resides within her. She knows what she wants and how to get it. How does she do that? With love! Cups represent emotions, intuition, love, and creativity—the intangible stuff, within and between people. This queen is also maternal. She’s sensitive to not only to her feelings, but to those of others. Cups are quite a contrast to the pentacles that showed up in the previous two cards. Pentacles represent things material like houses, jobs, cars and relationships (having a partner, friend, or colleague, but not necessarily loving him/her).

Listening to and Loving Oneself

At first blush, the Queen of Cups implies my friend could benefit by spending more time with and by herself. She may see this as a radical shift from how she spends time. The Eight of Pentacles is working, working, working while the King of Pentacles is doing for others or making sure others are taken care of on a material, tangible level. What if she were to simply love others, instead of doing for them?

The Tarot suggests she turn her focus inward for that is where the answer to her question resides. This queen stares intently at the ornate cup she’s holding. A.E. Waite, one of the creators of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, describes the cup as one that she has created. He goes on to say that it “symbolizes achievement brought about through using imagination.” (Pollack, Rachel, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom). In other words, this queen, when she allows herself to imagine what she wants, can make it real. The message to my friend might well be, “Indulge yourself. Love yourself. Give yourself time to imagine what you want. You can create it.”

Imagination Coupled with Love

Another important aspect must also be considered. Sheer will is not enough to create this cup. She must infuse the process with love—love of herself, her imagination, and her ability to create. This focus is starkly different from that of the pentacle cards. It’s not so much about doing (i.e., getting things done) or taking care of others, but letting oneself dream and getting excited about those dreams. That’s a form of self-love.

Maybe my friend hasn’t allowed herself this luxury of dreaming lately. Filling one’s day with a to-do list can easily block the tender dreams of a beginning life purpose seeker. How many times have we filled our day with tasks that don’t nourish our spirit or encroach on our alone-time? Probably, way too often.

The Insight

When it comes to answering the question of life purpose, this Queen must relinquish her role as King of Pentacles, that guy who spends most of his time overseeing his kingdom—the out there. It’s time for her to go inward and tend to her spiritual self.

In her book mentioned above, Rachel Pollack describes the cup this queen holds as having “a church-like shape.” Apparently before the modern age “all art expressed and glorified spiritual experience.” You see, for my friend to even ask the question about life purpose, indicates her spirit is nudging her for more attention. That elusive life purpose she seeks is within her. Spending more time meditating, walking in nature, and being by herself will likely lead to the next step of her self-discovery.

This may seem frivolous to a lot of us doers out there. When we are doing, we usually see the tangible results of our work. Spiritual work, however, doesn’t necessarily produce the tangible results we doers aim for. Instead it nurtures and nourishes our spirit. When that happens, life looks and feels different. What didn’t seem possible becomes possible.

The Tarot’s advice for my friend: “Seek the riches that lie within your spirit. The answer to your life purpose question will be revealed, especially if you listen to your spirit.”

For a Tarot reading, e-mail me at bev@alignyourlife.net or call  703.998.0880.

Looking for “More”

November 15, 2016

“Who are these people?” That’s the question I asked myself upon leaving my fiftieth high school reunion dinner one Saturday evening last month.

I went to a small country day school in Connecticut, starting at age four and ending at age 18. I was one of thirty-eight students who graduated on a sunny Friday morning in June 1966. Such a small number allowed us to believe we knew each other pretty well by the time we were handed that diploma. But, really, at age 18 how well do you know anybody? How discerning can you be?

We each had our own page in the Class of 1966 yearbook. As was the custom, we wrote long, gushy love notes to each other on our own page of each others’ yearbook. We promised to stay in touch.

But we didn’t. We had more important things to do–grow up, figure out our life purpose, have our heart broken and repaired, and discover what’s right and wrong. Career, family and community took center stage.

Fast Forward Fifty Years
In May of this year I was reminded that my fiftieth high school class reunion was slated for the first weekend in October. Even though the Alumni Office would send out one or two notices during the next six months, no one else was going to take the time to round up my classmates unless a few of us made the concerted effort.

Having organized lots of groups over the years, I identified three classmates who wanted to join me in planning our reunion. This entailed finding lost classmates, divvying the class list among the four of us and calling folks to stir up interest. One classmate who had been a librarian used her sleuthing skills on the Internet to find those without contact information. She found one classmate from his daughter’s wedding announcement in The New York Times and helped me confirm another’s death by locating his daughter in San Francisco.

The initial calls surprised me. Conversations averaged 45 minutes, and that was with people I hadn’t spoken with for 50 years. When I got off those calls, I was excited and hopeful. People who expressed doubt and reluctance about coming back for reunion at the beginning of the call said they would give the idea serious thought by the time we hung up.

The Planning Process
When we started, the planning committee met on the phone every two weeks. We were serious. In addition to calling classmates, we had to identify a restaurant for our Saturday night dinner. It took more than one try, but once a restaurant was found and our reservation was locked in, we could focus on making sure people came.

I created e-mails to gin up interest. I asked a few classmates to write about their favorite teacher, describe a memorable moment, and/or share why they wanted to attend reunion. I asked for current photos of those who contributed, so folks would recognize them when reading the article. Thanks to the Internet, I added cartoons, pictures and a relevant blog one guy wrote about attending his fortieth.

“We Got the Best We Could.”
The reunion was a two-pronged event: A lunch at the school on Friday and a dinner at a restaurant on Saturday. Out of 33 living classmates six attended the school lunch on Friday and 11 attended the dinner. This may not sound like much, but statistics would probably deem it a success.

One woman who attended the lunch delayed her winter sojourn to Florida for a week so she could join us. Out of the 11 who came to dinner, five of us were from out of state. One classmate arrived home in New Jersey on the morning of our dinner after taking the red-eye from Seattle to Newark, retrieved her dog from the kennel, and then drove to Connecticut to be with us for our 6:00 PM start time. That afternoon another drove from Massachusetts and two more from Rhode Island. All of them save the New Jersey classmate were driving home after the dinner.

Without our calling, cajoling and corralling our classmates, it’s highly unlikely there would have been any reunion. What touched me the most was learning two classmates who deemed each other best friends in high school had had no contact for 50 years. At the dinner they pledged to resume their friendship. As one classmate on the planning committee put it, “We got the best we could.”

So, Where Did I End Up?
In short, I was not where I wanted to be. Sitting at a long table with access only to the people on both sides of me and the one in front of me was not ideal for mixing with everyone who attended. The man across from me spent the better part of the evening proudly telling me and the woman to my left how many houses, boats and cars he had acquired through the years. For some reason this conversation dragged on and on. The woman to my right was consumed with the conversation to her right.

Usually I can talk easily with people I meet, but that evening I found myself disinterested in the conversation and too exhausted to interject my own stories. No one cared enough to ask. Dazed, I couldn’t figure out what had happened. After all the calls, e-mails and planning meetings, I felt disconnected and disappointed. Who were these people anyway?

Once home, I separately shared my disappointment with my doctor and my meditation teacher. Both had experienced the same phenomenon with old friends–lonely, empty connections. And then my minister made it exceedingly clear in her Sunday message, “When you open the spiritual door in your life, there is no going back.”

I opened that door in the early nineties, and assumed that most people I knew came with me. Not so. I went to my reunion looking for a connection with my childhood friends. I guess that’s why I unwittingly left home in the first place—looking for rewarding connections. Lovely as my adult classmates are, we are in different places today where my connection to them is tenuous and no longer needed. I wanted “more” from them and this experience. I learned this is not where “more” resides.

Do you have a junk drawer?  Most Americans do.  If I were standing in front of you right now, could you tell me the items that are in it?  You would probably give me a general listing of things, but I suspect if you were to go there right now, you would find something you’ve forgotten you had put there and haven’t used in years.  And I hesitate to ask how long ago that was.  Perhaps it’s time to peek inside that drawer you rarely open and review its contents. 

And if I were you, I’d have a little trash bag by my side, just in case you discover a tidbit of clutter. 

Sarah Ban Breathnach’s words on simplicity from her book Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy gave me pause, especially when it comes to junk drawers.  Perhaps they will do the same for you. 

“I began to search for the common thread in the lives of the world’s great spiritual teachers and traditions:  Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Lao-Tzu, the Hebrew prophets, the Moslem Sufis, the Catholic saints, the Hindu rishis, the Shakers, the Quakers, the Amish.  None of them had junk drawers.  That’s because they all embraced simplicity.  Spirituality, simplicity, and serenity seem to be a sacred trinity; three divine qualities of the orderly soul.” 

The Greatest Discovery

August 14, 2014

“The greatest discovery and development of the coming years will be along spiritual lines.  Here is a force which history clearly teaches has been the greatest power in the development of man and history, and yet we have been merely playing with it and have never seriously studied it as we have physical forces. Some day people will learn that material things do not bring happiness and are of little use in making men and women creative and powerful.  Then the scientists of the world will turn their laboratories over to the study of the spiritual forces.  When this day comes, the world will see more advancement in one generation than it has in the past four.”

-Charles Proteus Steinmetz, Inventor of the Alternating-Current Motor

“My relationship to money was no different from my relationship to food, to love, to fabulous sweaters:  Because I was never aware of what I already had, I never felt as if I had enough.  I was always focused on the bite that was yet to come, not the one in my mouth.  I was focused on the way my husband wasn’t perfect, not the way he was.  And on the jacket I saw in the window, not the one in my closet that I hadn’t worn for a year.”  –Geneen Roth, Lost and Found, Unexpected Revelations about Food and Money

 

 

No, this is not a term used in high school chemistry.  Chemicalization is a metaphysical term.  Unity Church co-founder Charles Fillmore calls it “a condition of the mind that is brought about by the conflict that takes place when a high spiritual condition contacts an old error state of consciousness,” from his book The Revealing Word, first published in 1959.

Error states of consciousness are negative thoughts most of us walk around believing about ourselves and others.  These thoughts are untrue even though we convince ourselves they are as real as our own flesh.  Some of those thoughts are conscious, others unconscious.  They become our basis for handling life.  As a result, these error states of consciousness block us from where we so fervently want to go.  Try as we might to achieve whatever goal we are seeking, we can’t seem to get there.

Charles Fillmore goes on to clarify his definition of chemicalization, “Whenever a new spiritual idea is introduced into the mind, some negative belief is disturbed.  It resists.  With this resistance comes more or less commotion in the consciousness. This is called chemicalization.”

My Own Experience with Chemicalization

More than 20 years ago I attended a Good Friday service at my church Unity of Washington, DC.  The woman who led the service shared a powerful prayer with the congregation.  It was called the Grace Prayer:

I thirst.  Into Thy hands I commit my body, spirit, mind, this situation.  Thy will is my will.  Heal me at depth.  Reveal that which needs to be revealed to me.  Heal that which needs to be healed in me.  So that I may glorify you, God.  It is finished.  Amen.

She said that if we prayed this prayer every day for one year, our lives would change substantially for the better.

Well, that hint of guidance was all I needed.  Why not say the prayer?  Of course, I couldn’t just say it.  I had to say it, and say it, and say it!  I am an Aries after all.  Why not speed up the process?

I don’t know how many times I said it that Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, but it was a lot.  I committed it to memory, so I wouldn’t have to carry around a piece of paper with the words on it.  I took walks saying it. I took my showers saying it.  I woke up saying it and I went to sleep saying it.  I had it down pat.

The Crucifixion

Let me digress for a moment.  I live on a street where probably 150 cars park every night.  I was driving a Honda Civic at the time, and my car was parked close to my front door on that Easter Sunday evening.

Ten hours later I stepped outside my door to discover my car had been broken into.  It was a crucifixion of sorts except it happened early Monday morning, not on Good Friday.  The passenger window had been shattered and my car radio had been yanked out and stolen.  The cars on both sides of mine had remained untouched.

Why had my car been chosen?  You might say because it was a Honda Civic and those models were easy targets for break-ins.  Perhaps, but I believe there is more to the story.  I see my car as an extension of me, so the new energy I was pumping into me could affect the car.  If all that intense prayer-work was transforming me, surely the same energy was having some kind of transformative effect on my car.

Missed an Important Step–Denial

Let’s go back to this concept of chemicalization.  I embraced the Grace Prayer because I wanted to transform, to move beyond where I was.  Frustrated by being stuck, I grabbed hold of the Grace Prayer with a vengeance, but I missed a step–what metaphysicians call denial.

Most people consider denial as a refusal to admit the truth—a common occurrence when it comes to illness or crumbling relationships.  That’s not the kind of denial I am referring to here.  In this case, denial is the mental process of erasing false beliefs from your mind.  These false beliefs could be “I’m not good enough.” “I am not worthy.” “No one takes me seriously.”  Plug in whatever negative beliefs you are holding about yourself and you’ve got something to deny.

Our thoughts are powerful, and if we believe negative ones about ourselves, we need to, in fact we MUST, cleanse ourselves of them before we start praying for the good stuff!  Examples might be “I let go of feeling unworthy.”  “I release my fears of being poor.”  “I leave my low self-esteem in the past.”

I’ve been working with these metaphysical concepts for almost 25 years.  I confess I never quite understood this concept of denial until recently.  I kept thinking denial means avoiding reality, not wanting to admit there is a problem.  I now know that it is a way of cleansing myself of negative thoughts about myself.

Charles Fillmore makes the case for denial as part of the prayer process. “Denial clears away belief in evil as reality and thus makes room for the establishing the Truth.”  By denying those negative thoughts that appear real, we make way for our own transformation and manifestations. Here’s the rub, he goes on to say, “If the cleansing baptism of denial does not precede the Holy Spirit’s descent, there is a conflict in the consciousness–the old error thoughts contend for their place, refuse to go out, and a veritable war is the result.”

My Car was the Battlefield

I confess–I didn’t do any denials before I started ferociously reciting the Grace Prayer.  I didn’t even know what a denial was.  Unknowingly I positioned myself for war, and my car ended up being the battlefield.  That Easter Monday the Grace Prayer was shelved as I turned my attention to calling the police and getting the car repaired.

After this incident, I still didn’t know about denials, but I kept saying the Grace Prayer just a lot less frequently and with a lot less gusto.  I am now realizing the power of my words and thoughts.  I also understand that the best way to pray and to manifest my good is to deny the error thoughts and pray for the good, in that order!

Charles Fillmore wraps up his definition with these words, “When the conscious mind has been put in order, the Holy Spirit descends with peace like a dove.”   That’s how I want positive change and answered prayers to enter my life these days, feeling peace and hearing the cooing of the dove.

 

One of my clients was stuck in her clutter. It wouldn’t move, or more precisely, she felt paralyzed by it…until she decided to register for my class “Consciously Clearing Clutter.” She knew she needed help. Once she accepted the fact she needed assistance, things started happening:

  • She altered the boundaries between her and her husband. Initially he couldn’t understand why she needed to take a class to help her with her clutter and discouraged her from doing so. Now he applauds her decision.
  • She cleared the clutter from her home office. Before the class it was a room she shuttered to enter. Now she feels energized and eager to work there.
  • She felt hopeless before taking the class. She kept telling herself she was a failure. Now she sees the results of her initial efforts and is committed to keep going. Failure is not an option.

You’ve heard this story before, but what happened? Why the change? Some will say it’s serendipity; her need and the class converged at the right and perfect time. Yes, I agree, but before that could happen she reached a critical point. I suspect her thinking went like this: “Things are so bad. I’ll never get out of this hole alone. If I want to clear my clutter, I’ve got to approach this differently. Since I don’t know how, I’ve got to get some fresh ideas.”

Looking at the Shadow

‘Resistance’ is a dirty word when we’re confronted with an issue we believe we need to overcome but seemingly cannot. My client couldn’t address her clutter. Resistance blocked her way. Every time, I suspect, she felt resistance, she beat herself emotionally and issued repeated “Stop Work” orders.

Her resistance, however, served a purpose. It kept her from addressing the issue until she was ready. It was highly unlikely any substantive work could have been done until she was ready to confront it squarely. At first blush, clutter seems like such a straightforward commodity to address, yet anyone who organizes and de-clutters without investigating its deeper issues will probably be mystified by its inevitable recurrence.

In her book The Dark Side of the Light Chasers shadow expert Debbie Ford wrote, “Most of us are driven by the eight-year old within us. That child who didn’t get his needs met is begging for acceptance.” Ford goes on to say that if we delve into our memory as far back as possible, we’ll remember the trigger for a particular unmet need. Because it is so far in the past, we are more likely to remember it with compassion and better able to identify the origin of its power.

“If we don’t shift our perceptions of our true selves,” Ford asserts, “we’ll be stuck repeating our past behaviors.” My client began my class seeing herself as a failure and ashamed of not being able to clear her clutter independently. By the third class her self-perception had shifted. She had completed class assignments, shared her victories with work colleagues, and recreated greater balance with her husband. More importantly, she was committed to continuing the process. She wanted to deal with her clutter once and for all.

Shifting Out of Resistance

Ford claims we can tell what work is left unfinished by identifying our sub-personalities. Sounds psychotherapeutic and probably is, but stay with me for a moment. Ford believes you can find out what you need to do to resolve any recurring patterns of behavior (e.g. habitual clutter).

She suggests you get quiet and go within. Call forth any person in your subconscious (i.e. unresolved relationships, lovers, family, friends, heroes and spiritual leaders) and let that person appear. You can access anyone you know by going within. Start a dialogue with him. Ask advice on what to do about a particular issue. Listen to what that person has to say. Give him time to respond. You’ll get the answers you are looking for.

These so-called sub-personalities await your call. They want attention and acceptance, and if you give them that, they will return it with love and compassion. Ford writes, “If you befriend yourself, you’ll break the continuing cycle of loss of self or loss of others…By reclaiming everything you hate about yourself, you open up a world within where you have access to the entire universe.”

Embracing Acceptance

Here’s the exciting news: By embracing a seemingly insurmountable situation, you position yourself for personal transformation. You gain an awareness of self you didn’t have before. You not only discover but release powerful energy, knowledge and resources you never knew you had. All that pain was simply a catalyst to move you to a higher spiritual plane, where freedom, happiness and calm reside.

When you find yourself being resistant, acknowledge and honor your feelings. They are real and deserve attention, but when you are ready, seek to accept whatever situation you confront. Look for its blessings because that will lead you to a better place—to your own personal transformation. You’ll discover acceptance is a mighty motivator.

Bev Hitchins © 2012

It seemed like a kind gesture.  My colleague Pamela (not her real name) suggested I post fliers marketing my business in the numerous laundry rooms at her condominium.  I had just written an article about the importance of clearing out storage units.  Her condo office had asked that everyone clear out theirs.  It felt synchronous.  Still I was surprised.  I live in a condominium, too.  My condo association doesn’t allow anyone to post fliers on their laundry room bulletin boards.  Why would hers? 

Before Pamela gave me her laundry room key, which she said would open all the other laundry rooms throughout her condominium, she wanted to ask me a question.  Both of us sat down.  Having my full attention, she told me she had landed a contract with a big company and needed help.  Would I assist her? 

When Your Gut Says “No!” but You Still Say “Yes”

My gut kicked in.  It immediately said “No!” but feeling cornered and slightly vulnerable, I said yes.  She had just done me a favor—extending an invitation to post fliers in her condo’s laundry rooms.  Did I owe her something? 

Accepting the job meant giving up a day of my time, if you include the additional preparation, to help her out.  That one day would cause me to expend precious energy and time away from the work I want and need to do for myself.  She said she would pay me and we agreed on a price.  As a solo entrepreneur, I’ll admit the money enticed me.  My gut, however, kept saying “No!” loud and clear.

Once the agreement was made, Pamela showed me her laundry room and the bulletin board where I posted my first flier.  I mentioned my surprise at being able to do this, since my condo’s policy forbid it.  Unresponsive to my comment, she left for another appointment, and I was left to find the other laundry rooms on my own.  Before stepping out, she suggested I go to the condo office to inform them of my intentions.  Perhaps they could help.

Discovering the Truth

Feeling somewhat abandoned and lost in her condo neighborhood I started looking for the other laundry rooms.  The key didn’t work in the first one, so I hunted for the next.  When the key didn’t open the second one, I thought, “This isn’t working.  I will go to the condo office and ask them if each laundry room has its own key.”

When I entered the condo office I was greeted with immediate disdain.  The office manager gave me a look that would have scared even puppies and bunnies.  I got my answer quickly.  “Absolutely, without question, if you do not live here, you cannot solicit here!  We will take down any fliers you have put up.”

“Okay.  Okay.  I will take down the one I put up.”  I beat it out of the office, removed the one flier I posted, slipped Pamela’s key through her mail slot and headed home.  The time spent preparing the fliers, driving to and from Pamela’s and all the shenanigans in between added up to close to three hours.

Was There a Hidden Agenda?

Once home I started thinking about what happened.  Why didn’t Pamela know her condo’s policy?  She’s been living there for years.  What a waste of my time.  And I accepted a job I didn’t want.  Was her invitation to post fliers simply a foil for a hidden agenda?  Perhaps she knew if she offered me the job on the phone, I would have said “No.”  By seeing me face-to-face in her condo, on her territory, she had a better chance of describing the job and getting me to say “Yes,” especially after inviting me to post fliers at her condo.

I have a hunch this was her unconscious intention.  This kind of interaction, dear reader, is what often happens when we’ve agreed to do something we don’t want to do and know we should have declined.  Someone wants us to say “Yes,” and knows if given our druthers we would say “No.”  That person then sets up the conversation in such a way that it makes it difficult to say “No.”  The conversation begins about something else.  For me, it was posting my fliers in her condo’s laundry rooms. 

Once that other person has your full attention, then the conversation shifts to the true agenda—the hidden agenda.  If she knows you well enough to know your vulnerabilities, she will incorporate them into whatever offer or ultimatum is presented.  For me it was the offer of money.  Pamela’s monetary offer seemed attractive at first, but when I factored in the number of hours and amount of energy I would expend, the payback wasn’t worth it.

The Final Analysis

A day later I called Pamela.  I left a message to thank her and to let her know I wouldn’t be able to accept her offer.  I had another commitment—one that was true to me and the work I was meant to do.  What a relief it was to cut the threads of this heartless acceptance and move forward. 

In the end I was grateful.  I had another opportunity to define how to spend my time.  My self-worth was sharpened in the process.  I discerned what felt right for me and then took action to preserve it.  The “Me of the Past” would have been complimented by Pamela’s offer and remained unaware that I had been suckered into someone else’s hidden agenda.  The “Me of the Present” now listens to her inner voice and knows its truth.

Bev Hitchins © 2011

Harboring anger and resentment can be consuming.  I didn’t realize how much until one day I just got tired of doing it. 

My Forgiveness Story

My neighbor and I share a small garden between our two stoops.  One year we were going to plant a garden together, but somewhere between the digging and the planting, something went wrong.  Either she didn’t like what I was doing or I didn’t want to take her directives.  From that time forward hostility colored our every exchange.  I made a concerted effort to avoid crossing her path.  Sometimes that meant waiting until she drove off or until she shut her door after arriving home.

The mature person would have put the issue on the table and asked the other what had caused this strife, but neither one of us could make that concession.  I guess we felt more comfortable holding onto the dastardly images we painted of each other so we could justify our anger. 

My First Attempt—A Feng Shui Cure

A couple years into our acrimonious standoff, I tried to change the dynamic between us.  Using a Feng Shui cure, I planted two rocks in the garden—one on her side and the other on my side—connected with a red string.  Each rock had the word “Harmony” painted on it.  I had hoped this ancient cure would ease the tension between us.  More importantly, I knew it signaled my first step in getting off an angry merry-go-round. 

I am not sure the Feng Shui cure worked.  Nothing seemed to change except that a day of reckoning did finally come.  I was leaving my home one morning months after I had set the cure in motion.  As usual, when I lock my door, I usually end up facing her stoop.  That particular morning I got a good look at her stoop.  The thought came rushing in, “This mental anguish between you and her must stop!”  How?  I wasn’t sure.  I still felt angry.  I wasn’t about to sit down and talk to my neighbor.  Not yet.

My Second Attempt—Getting Biblical

During this time, a Bible passage came to my attention. 

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”  –Matthew 18: 21-22:

I started thinking, “What if I write a statement of forgiveness 490 times?”  I could do 70 statements a day for seven days and see what happens.  I wanted to resolve this issue once and for all.  I wasn’t ready to do it face-to-face, addressing it spiritually had potential.  I devised the statement:  “I forgive my neighbor and myself for past hurts.”  I thought I should include myself as well since I was one of the two players in this scenario.  

I began writing on Sunday.  By Wednesday things started happening in my condominium apartment. 

A Punctured Pipe Serves as Catalyst      

My bathroom is right above hers.  Since our units are more than 60 years old, the aging pipes often get clogged.  On Wednesday, the fourth day of writing my forgiveness statements, a member of the condominium staff snaked my clogged bathroom sink.  The next morning I took a shower.  What happened next changed everything.

I got an angry call from my neighbor.  The snake-job the day before had punctured my shower’s drain pipe, causing major leakage onto my neighbor’s bathroom ceiling.  By Friday afternoon the condominium management notified me that I could not take a shower or bath until after the weekend.  Since Monday was Veterans’ Day that meant Tuesday was the earliest I would be able to shower in my own home.

The Turning Point

Here’s where it gets interesting.  Faced with no access to bathing facilities, I got a knock on my door from my neighbor.  Since the first signs of leakage, we had had several conversations during which I expressed my concern and apology for this terrible inconvenience and damage.  She stopped by to inform me she was going out of town for the holiday weekend.  Knowing my predicament, she offered me the keys to her condo and gave me an open invitation to take showers or baths while she was away. 

This was mind-blowing!  After years of hostility, the logjam had been broken.  The keys were a peace offering, and I accepted them.  Although I still had feelings to deal with that kept me from showering in her condo, I knew progress had been made.  I completed the final set of sentences on Saturday.  I had been freed.  I could now move beyond the anger and resentment to a place of acceptance. 

Timeline Summary                       

Days 1-3     Began writing forgiveness statements each day

Day 4         Condominium maintenance man snaked sink pipe

Day 5         Shower leaked into neighbor’s bathroom

Day 6         Forbidden to shower; Received keys

Day 7         Completed writing forgiveness statements

Why Call Forgiveness a Clutterbuster?

So much of the clutter we carry around is intangible.  It’s mental, emotional and spiritual.  The resentment aimed at my neighbor occupied my thinking every time I left or entered my condo.  I would get annoyed when I heard loud voices or hammering from her unit, when she hosted parties, and even when she had a patio put in her backyard.  Whatever resentment conceived during our “garden altercation” mushroomed into a resentment that permeated everything I witnessed her doing.  It felt like a fungus I couldn’t control—until I realized I could control it.  I could expurgate it!

Anger and resentment are like deceptive lovers.  They cling to us and, in an odd way, comfort and protect us, much like material clutter.  We become co-dependent.  By holding onto them, we shield ourselves from the truth that we are the ones in charge of our own feelings.  Debilitating feelings left untended color our vision and deafen our hearing.  In the end we can’t see beyond the situation or hear our inner guidance.  We get stuck.

These days my relationship with my neighbor is peaceful and harmonious.  Recently she chided me for not telling her I had been ill for a week.  She said she would have made me soup and checked in on me had I let her know.  Thanks to forgiveness, our relationship has been healed.  I can now focus on something more positive than anger when I leave or enter my condo.  I can greet her with a light heart.  It feels wonderful.