I know this seems contradictory, but is not. Let’s talk about material things, the ones we accumulate constantly and then have no idea what we are going to do with them. We all do it and we should stop. George Carlin, the famous comedian and linguistics genius, once said that we work to make money to buy stuff, we even keep buying bigger houses to put our stuff……..Sadly, he was so right!!! The world has become one big pile of stuff. We all contribute and we all are guilty of not doing enough to stop. Never mind the thousands and thousands of landfills we fill every year with our trash, rubbish, garbage or whatever we want to call it.
This week, I went to help Frankie’s aunts pack. They are elderly and are moving again this Summer. Haven’t found the place yet, but they need to get rid of tons of stuff. When they retired, they moved in together and each brought her stuff. Very little was tossed at the time, I am sure!!! Now, with advancing age, so-so health and only two months to do it…..this has become a monumental chore.
Driving back home, I started thinking about all the stuff I am still accumulating, be it stuff I buy or stuff I get as presents. What have I been doing? Do I want my children one day to do what I did for my mother? or what I am doing for the aunts? Suddenly everything became very clear, there is no need for me to worry, I had the solution!!! I will not buy anything new and I will accept NO MORE gifts of things I need to pack and unpack. I have enough tea-sets, mugs, cups and saucers, dishes….etc… to give away or make two families happy. I can have coffee mornings for 12 or more, serve dinner for 12, entertain my whole family without having to resort to paper plates (God forbid!!) and have people over for drinks and serve my munchies in the nicest dishes. Enough!
I know this is not really de-cluttering, but I will assume it is. If you get no more stuff, you don’t need a bigger place, you don’t fret about things getting lost or broken during your next move…….De-cluttering used to be an excuse to get more stuff. Until my last move, I was in the don’t buy unless you are replacing mode. Not anymore, now I just want to toss, not replace. It’s a decision that came very naturally.
De-cluttering will mean, from now on, not getting anything I have to keep. I will buy only what can be used and dispose of after a period of time. I will get only what I can discard or give away, things like clothes, sheets and towels, books. Or things that get used up like make-up, perfume, toiletries. This is a real breakthrough!!!
There are things I will still be carrying with me, I know. My photo albums, my picture frames, my paintings, my journals, things my children made for me through the years…..I am a mother, after all, and these are part of my life forever. Now, everything they left with me, to store or take care of, that needs to go. They are adults and have lives of their own. They should start getting their clutter in their homes! It’s the way life works. This feel great!!!!
So on that happy mood, I arrived at my house. Immediately made plans for removing all the stuff I have been getting ready to give away. We have a guest bathroom and it hasn’t been used in months…….it is full of all the stuff I have taken out of closets, kitchen cabinets and drawers. Never fear, I already started making the rounds. Sale Rack, where I sold my gently worn clothes etc., was my first stop. The This “n” That charity shop was visited today. The Salvation Army will get the rest. I am already breathing a sigh of relief!!!
My high school friends have a communal WhatsApp account where we visit, keep in touch and commiserate when necessary. It is a new adventure and so far, so good….until last night! I broke one of my strictest rules: NEVER TALK POLITICS with friends, family or anyone for that matter!! Anyways, the discussion was about the upcoming elections in Panama. With the protests in Venezuela, the political atmosphere in Panama at the moment and the passion people put into these discussions, everyone is very aware of the power of the vote. My friends are encouraging each other to vote. A very good thing, of course. Well, somehow it got to specific politics, who and how, why and why not. I put my two cents worth, was completely misunderstood…serves me right! What was I thinking? Must have been sleepy, groggy or who knows.
Politics is absolutely toxic to friendships and families ties. I think it’s even more taboo than religion!!! We make an effort to refrain from talking about religion not to offend anyone. Mistakenly, we think politics can be an easier topic. To cut the story short, I ended up on a back and forth with one of my friends on something I thought we agreed on!! What a faux-pas!! Didn’t know what had hit me. Thankfully, another friend told us to change the subject, which I was more than glad to do. Some things need to be remembered at all times, unfortunately, we slip once in a while. It becomes necessary to move on…..So, once again, I reestablished my rule and did just that.
On that note, I decided on a less controversial theme. This morning I browsed through the blogs I follow. One caught my attention:
Judith Boyd is an absolute original. In her early 70s, she has the most amazing collection of hats, to go with her most amazing collection of vintage clothing and accessories. She is hosting a HAT ATTACK on her blog and is inviting her readers to post our creations! Well, I didn’t need another prompting. I love hats and have a good number of them. It is true mine are rather plain compared to hers, but I also collect brooches. Instant fashion idea: mix-and-match both and see what happens. Have to say I am very pleased with some of the results!!!
I started with my favorite Panama hat, yes, it is!!! It is by Panama Line, London. Coupled with different brooches, it became absolutely the thing if I was to wear hats here in Miami….for some lavish affair. Then, my green raffia Italian hat by Capelli, easy to wear at the beach, but can be dressed-up too! I love it because it can take a lot of abuse and never loses its shape. The color is as vibrant as when I bought it years ago.
Last, but not least my other Panama hat. This is a variation of the typical Panamanian hat, used in the fields by farmers and ranches. This version has a wide brim and it’s fabulous to wear in the hot days of a Panamanian summer. You really need to have some shade while walking around town, attending an outdoor event or simply to look stylish.
The brooches I used are part of a lovingly assembled collection. I seldom wear them anymore, but I keep buying them. Some are from London’s Portobello Road, acquired when I visited Camille. Others I bought in vintages stores in New York, Panama or Miami. Bought one at the Alphonse Mucha Museum in Prague, another at a vintage show in New Milford, CT when my son Frank was in prep-school. Camille has given me a couple of stunning ones. My mother and grandmother contributed with gorgeous pieces of their own. I take them out every now and again and look at them and put them back. I think this must change now!!!
It was too much fun just to do it this once. I am wearing more hats, after all, I have decided to completely change my image. My grey hair is still growing out, so why not!!!
More to come………
A most welcome change from politics, don’t you think? I have followed Judith’s blog for a while. Admiring her sense of style and thinking how easy she makes looking glamorous. Now it’s time to see if I can conjure some of my own. Thanks for this idea, hope you find my creations up to your standards or at least interesting!!!!
SHARE with HAT ATTACK
Just came back from three weeks visiting my mother, so you can imagine the rest of the sentence!!! Since she had a stroke about seven years ago, my sisters and I have made several trips a year to visit. Not easy, but necessary; stressful, but somehow enjoyable. This time, she spent the days dozing off and the nights talking non-stop. Nobody in the house got much sleep, it was frustrating and funny……as everything else in our lives these days: full of contradictions.
My mother was very active, caring, generous to a fault and involved in the things she loved. Careful with her appearance, always impeccable, not a hair out-of-place and surrounded by exquisite perfume. Her grandchildren were her joy even if she didn’t see them all the time. She came for their First Communions, high school and college graduations, all the important events in their lives. Taught my children to read in Spanish! Spent about two months every Summer at a beach house she and her family own. Those were happy times when she could spend time with her brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews. After all, her three daughters left to study in the States, got married and never lived in Panama again. We visited her, she visited us and we traveled together, but we lived apart most of our adult lives.
When she had the stroke, December 31st, 2006, everything changed. The stroke was massive and it was nothing short of a miracle that she survived. About a year of physical and speech therapy later, she was able to walk with help, feed herself and speak her mind. No small accomplishment for an 83-year-old! The first few years, she lived with a nurse and a housekeeper. We visited regularly and some of our cousins were there for support. We knew this couldn’t last, but were unable to come up with a better solution.
Three years ago, this arrangement just became an impossible task. Everything she worked so hard to re-learned was forgotten and she is now dependent on her nurse for everything. It is hard to see and harder to deal with, but it is what it is. My sister Laura moved from Venezuela and took control of the everyday caring. I admire her enormously because I would not have done it, not for anything! She is the constant presence that keeps the machinery running smoothly; and she does it with common sense and a healthy dose of good humor. I can enjoy my visits to Panama because she has made our mother’s care as natural as it can possibly be.
Mami, as we call her, is in a wheelchair and has difficulty talking. On the other hand, her mind is alert and she is aware of everything. Don’t know if this is good or bad, so I try not to dwell on it. On February 26th, Mami turned 90. We were all there, made her day easy, made her laugh and had cake and ice-cream. It was impossibly hot, but she stayed up pass her bedtime to receive her nieces and nephews who came to wish her well. Her family sent her flowers, which she liked. Her grandchildren called and she smiled and tried to talk to them when she heard their voices!!! It was a good day and these days, that is more than enough.
What is going to happen? We are not getting any younger, traveling back and forth is taking its toll. Frankie and I haven’t been able to take a long vacation in a while. Ana and her husband haven’t either. Laura hardly has time to visit her children. Our lives are in suspended animation. Tossing the arrangement we have now is not an option, Listening to the obvious solution is difficult. There is no easy answer because….if it’s not one thing, it’s our mother!!!!!
It’s a New Year and as in every year, we make resolutions. We tell ourselves that we have been given the chance to start over and make things work out this time around. Unfortunately, it is a small minority sticking to their resolutions. I often wondered why…such good intentions and nothing to show for them at the end of the year. There must be a reason, I said, and what I found was: we take the big picture, trying to carry out too much and failing in doing so. Try one thing at a time, one day at a time.
There is also that we are not taking the real meaning of the word into consideration. I might be absolutely wrong on this one, won’t be the first time. Still, a small voice tells me I might be unto something this year. What are resolutions, after all? Here is the definition:
It is fairly clear, isn’t it? Resolutions are good intentions, aims we mean to meet….but wait….there is another meaning. Resolutions are actions of solving problems!!! Now things get clear. We need to take action to achieve, we need to act to solve. With this in mind, let the New Year begin.
Writing things down always helps me. Making lists is still very much a part of my life, let’s write what we want from this New Year. I don’t know about you, but I believe we must know what we want before we can have it. If you don’t know, you will wander aimlessly, wasting time and energy.
Please do not write things like: I want to lose weight, I want a new job, I want to travel. Being vague will get you nowhere. Be specific: I need to get in shape, so I am signing up for yoga or Pilates this week. Same thing applies when you want to travel: I will visit my friend in Holland in the Spring. Then start making this possible: investigate ticket prices, dates you can go. Or if you want a new job: how much you want to earn, are you ready to get into something you really love? Make inquiries about the possibility of changing jobs. Be positive and do your research!
We also tend to ignore our inner selves. We don’t pay attention anymore to what makes us happy. That is a big mistake. Our younger selves used to take risks and try new things. Nowadays, we are more serious and cautious, more careful….and not happy!! Listen and make yourself do small things at the beginning: change your hair color or get a new haircut, buy that dress that makes you feel sexy, treat yourself to a manicure and pedicure. A visit to the salon will do wonders for your self-esteem, I should know. The new me is going grey and my hair has movement and shine. Have a drink with a girlfriend on a week night…small steps. Follow your intuition.
In this time and age, we tend to be so negative. Always focusing in what is wrong with our lives, with our jobs, with our family…..maybe it is the fact that what is wrong is what sells. Everyone focuses on the negative. Toss all that: how about finding out what are you doing right that is making you healthier? or what is happening in your life that is making you happy? Seems nobody is interested, well, you should be. Sit and write these positive things. I am starting a diary about the positive changes I will be making this year and how my life becomes better!!! I will be sure I keep up my Gratitude Journal. Remember the craze about this in the 1990s? It was a brilliant idea, we should start the trend again!!!
Finally, remain in the present. There is nothing we can do about the past, except learn from it!! Some of us just don’t want to look too far into the future, it can be uncertain. That is true, but we can do things now to shape it to our advantage. Take time to get to know what you want, it’s never too late. Trust yourself and follow your passion. Enjoy every day and every moment. This year is a blank book, fill it with the best stories you have written yet and keep making memories…..
My husband and daughter accompanied me to watch About Time, a British movie written and directed by the very clever Richard Curtis. He has given us other gems: Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually. This is another one. Do not want to spoil it for you, so all I am saying is that I came out with a brilliant idea for a challenge!! Can see your eyebrows raising and your mouth slightly open. What is she talking about? What is she up to now? Very simple: I am setting a challenge for myself, a challenge that will last through the Holidays and into the New Year. It is about time I see every day as I would have like it to be from the beginning.
This movie opened my eyes to something so true, I should have seen it before. Life is made out of days, taken one at a time. Days, in turn, are made of moments and moments are what life is all about. Why? because it would be moments that we remember, good ones and not so good ones. Moments that would make our memories, especially as we grow older. So let’s pay attention, let’s put an effort into making our moments memorable. This is the only way to make your day just as it should have been…from the beginning.
Have you come to the end of the day and asked yourself: why did I do this or that? why didn’t I keep my mouth shut or why did I say those things? I know I have, more than once. It is not full regret all the time, it’s just a wish, a vague feeling that the day could have gone better! It happens to all of us, it’s life……
Life, the rhythm of life actually, is different for each one of us. It depends on our personalities, our goals, our work, our family. Some people seem to glide along with a smile on their faces. Others, and I count myself in this group, smile once in a while, but struggle along. What to do. I always thought that there was nothing to be done, after all it was a matter of personality, wasn’t it? All I had to do was move on and make the best of it, right? Absolutely not…..Fortunately, I went to see About Time!!!
Watching what must be the feel-good movie so far this year, my eyes opened and my mind decided. This is what I propose to do. Take every moment and make it the best it can be. Think before I speak, harder than you think in my case, so I have to make sure to breathe at least twice before I open my mouth! Consider what the other person is going to feel if I say what I want to say, breathe again of course! Don’t rush into any reaction, breathe before you respond to anything, be it words or actions. For now, I think this is enough. I can’t overwhelm myself. I will, though, keep you posted on this.
This is the time to give thanks. We should do this everyday, but the idea of millions gathering with family and friends to give thanks for the blessings they have received, it’s amazing!! It gives us a warm feeling, so we celebrate. Of course, as with everything else we do as a celebration, Thanksgiving comes with much planning and hard work. Most people love precisely that and thrive on the stress and anxiety of it all. Good for you, I say.
However, this is not the case with many of us. After years of celebrating at home and stressing for days, we want something different. For the ones that find this holiday overwhelming, let’s find a better way. Yes, why not take charge of the celebration and do it your way. You still want to share with your family, right? There is a way and you can do it.
Toss aside the stress, hassle and hard work of the holiday. Listen instead to this idea for a family gathering with all the warmth of sharing with the people you love. Plan a pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner. It is not a novel idea, but it’s ideal. You’ll see. The planning would be all you do. Make a list of everyone attending. Make another list of the things that would be needed: main courses, appetizers, desserts, drinks, plates and cutlery, napkins and such. Send these lists to everyone. Flatter the ones that love to cook into bringing their favorite dishes. The ones that do not cook can bring the rest! Remember to ask for volunteers for setting up and cleaning up. Make it fun, getting people involved and excited. You’ll enjoy the day and this could be the last year you cook and stress and end up exhausted!!
This is possible, believe me!!! Since my husband and I are empty nesters, we do not celebrate at home. I did this for years because this is my favorite holiday. Nowadays, the thought of cooking for more than four people sends me into a panic attack!! Thankfully, now that we live in Miami, we have been offer a solution. We join his very large family. I prepare a dish, we bring some wine and help with anything once we get there. We spend some time with them and partake of the goodies in moderation. We then go to my sister Ana. She is a wonderful cook and loves to entertain and her husband is a great host. The gathering is much smaller, we savor the excellent food and drinks, conversation is relaxed. We come home sated and happy. Perfect!!!
This is a very hard one: a challenge women face everyday, no matter where they live and who they are. Every woman I know seems to be always saying yes when she means no. Women have been programmed to meet everyone else’s needs leaving their own unattended. It is nothing we are doing wrong, or something we do to ourselves. It is just the way it has been and is for so many of us. It’s time to toss that concept, don’t you think?
At this stage of my life, I feel I owe myself more time, more dedication, more care. Don’t you feel the same way? There is nothing wrong with that, no matter how badly we feel about it. Consequently, we need to start becoming assertive.
Now, that is a tricky word. This is how Collins English Dictionary defines it:
2. given to making assertions or bold demands; dogmatic or aggressive
You can imagine……more than a few of us would have a problem with this. We do not want to appear too bold or aggressive, or too set in our ways. Absolutely out of the question! Even worse, we do not want to rock the boat and put our family, friends or co-workers on the defensive. An absolute conundrum, isn’t it? Until we carefully listen and weight the alternative: giving in, agreeing to things we don’t want to do, adding more stress to our lives and who knows what else. Oh, no!!!
So let’s start with a simple fact: No is a complete sentence. It might be the shortest sentence in any language, but a sentence it is, trust me! As someone said: it doesn’t require justification or explanation. Of course, some will tell me that we also need to be polite. If you feel this way, add something like: No, I have commitments or No, I am very busy at the moment. Use your judgement.
Throughout our lives, we have been so conditioned to try to please everyone, to keep the peace, to be agreeable and understanding that we have forgotten to set boundaries. Yes, you read right. We may have to consider assertiveness a challenge, but boundaries are essential to our well-being!
Setting boundaries can be stressful and can take time. Like anything else in life, we need to approach this with full knowledge that we can loose friends, upset family members, make our co-workers suspicious. You are going to be changing the way the game has been played and most people are not good at change. It comes with the territory, so don’t fret.
First things, first: what bothers you most? what stresses you more often? Be truthful, it’s the only way. Family is usually the biggest culprit. You are always available, always there for them and this is exhausting! Start with simple things: it’s your yoga lesson night, dinner will be whatever they prepare. It’s a movie you really do not want to see, stand firm in saying you rather stay home and read. Most families will be understanding, but there will be the ones that would not accept the new you easily. Just keep at it!
Our friends are up there too. Toxic friendships, a term that is now everywhere, can drag you down and make your life stressful. These friendships are not good for us, but it is very hard to break a pattern. We all know them: the friend that needs constant advise, the one that needs a shoulder to cry on. Ask yourselves, are they there for you in the same circumstances? No?, then you have to start setting those boundaries. Real friendship will survive them, if not…..good riddance!
Finally, our co-workers….in these times when financial uncertainty is a reality we will be tempted to shy away from saying NO. That would a mistake, unless you think your job is at risk. If not, use the same idea. Start small: No, I can’t do this for you today, I have a lot on my plate or No, I will not be able to stay after hours today, I have an appointment. The ones that will get the message are the ones worth having a work relationship with, you’ll see.
This exercise will lead us to a very important place: a place where we respect and like ourselves. So, by all means be assertive, learn to say NO!!!
Have you noticed? There seems to be a recurring theme for a lot of people these days. Everyone has a different reason, but the result is the same: when in doubt: reinvent! This happens to be a great idea, if we take the time to think about it without fear. It is a big challenge for me, but I have to admit that it has some allure.
Research conducted in the USA has discovered that we are limited by our imagination. We have an idea of what happened at anytime in our lives and we rarely try to see if it really happened that way. What to do? It’s human nature, it seems. We are set in our ways and hate taking risks. Most of our decisions were taken because they were safe, whatever that means. We craved acceptance, so being different and taking risks, were not really the thing to do. Did you really chose your career or your lifestyle based on your passion? Did you really see the purpose of your life when you started? Some of us did, of course, but they were the minority, trust me. Most of us just chose what was acceptable and practical because we didn’t know ourselves well when we decided. I know I didn’t!!!
Then we hit our middle years. We suddenly realize we have another life ahead of us, we think of the choices we have made and pause. Maybe they were not exactly what we should have done, maybe we played it safe, maybe there is a new opportunity to do it right: reinvent. Perfect, go for it, we say……then, not so fast, we think. What do I really want at this time and is this reinventing worth it?
Doubts creep into our minds: I can’t do that, I’m too old to try this, what would people think, how will my family react, it’s too risky…have I covered every excuse? Maybe you have some others just as important sounding or as logical, you think. Well, we are all wrong! To reinvent ourselves, all we need is the desire to do so. All we need to do is listen! We know ourselves well by now, we have confidence and passion, we know our purpose, we can do this. We are not going to change who we are, reinventing is not changing, we are going to live as we truly are. Not as the world sees us, as our friends and family see us, but as we really are inside. Toss your old self and go for it, I say.
Once you have decided that reinventing is the way to go…..move on with the idea. There is no point on coming to a conclusion and then…just letting the ball drop. Absolutely not the thing to do. You need to step up and make your plan come to fruition. To do that, you need to dare, not easy I do know. Most of us were not brought up by parents that actually preached this. Think back….were you ever told that you needed to take risks? needed to just go ahead and act upon your ideas? I, for one, do not remember hearing this.
Yes, my mother was very positive and always said that we could do anything, we should dream and make those dreams come true, but there was not real encouragement on acting on them! A contradiction, indeed. My maternal grandmother used to say that if one doesn’t jump in the river, how does one know if one can swim!!!! A statement way ahead of her times, but was not a daring soul herself. So much for reinventing; not quite sure my mother listened to these wise words either, even though she was forced into decisions that changed her life.
Now, here is another crossroad and most of us are really trying to do what we feel is right for ourselves….well, some of us at least are trying to. Hand twisting, coming up with excuses, going back and forth over how we should do this. Nothing coming out of this heart wrenching exercise…so frustrating! Dare, that is the only way. It is not a matter of trust vs control, it’s not a matter of trusting others: it is daring to trust yourself. Julia Cameron, teacher, filmmaker, poet, artist, journalist, playwright and composer has said: “Leap and the net will appear“. Can’t think of a more appropriate quote.