Things are pretty ordinary around here lately. Good and full ordinary, but still.
Wow, isn’t that like every journalism school example of the lead sentence you shouldn’t write if you want people to read on?
But it’s the truth because, as usual, I’m thinking lots about ordinary and those things that come back around over and over. So much of life feels that way.
I talked about this with my hairdresser Sarah on Saturday — how we’ll think we’ve learned or grown beyond a certain lesson about how we misfire in relationships or how we neglect to put up appropriate boundaries — and then wham-o, here it comes around again.
I used to get so angry at myself when the lesson would come around, berate and judge myself for not being more mature or wise, ask what sort of fool I was to have to go through this again. Ask, “Why didn’t I learn this the last time?”
It can be confusing because these coming around things might feel exactly the same, but if we look closer, the lesson is often in altered packaging, and it’s facing the you you’ve become since the last pass through, so it’s different.
Sarah and I talked about how each time these feelings/fears/broken places arise we have an opportunity to listen, learn and grow — in a way that you were perhaps not ready for the last time.
“It’s not a linear process anyway,” she said.
As we talked about our inner workings, I noticed myself circling down with my index finger, as if I were getting to the core of it, while she circled her finger upward, to express the higher level of understanding.
And both seem to be true — the deeper (of healthy self-examination) and the higher (of seeking out what is better, seeking God), and both reveal the motion of these growing, forward-moving lives because usually we do not stand completely still.
Lately some of my motion has looked like sorting through loads of papers and projects and various toys. I’m a little ways into what I expect to be an ongoing and large scale purge.
I talked with my friend Angela about this. About how unsettling it can be, how hard to let go, how much I feel I’m just brushing the surface and never able to make the kind of progress I want to make. Over the years, I’ve gone through some of the same things again and again, gradually making smaller piles, but still — the circling.
The practical side of me wants to dive in and get it done, knowing how little time I have to devote to this stuff in the midst of our twirly whirly life, while Ms. Sentimental wants to take it slowly, allow myself to feel what I do as I look at these memories, these tangible pieces of life. I know it’s sort of impractical, but still.
Many organizational clutter control experts suggest “a touch it once” approach in regards to stuff, but this has rarely (if ever) worked for me. “Maybe it’s more like an ‘oh, there you are again’ kind of thing,” Angela said as we walked through the rain.
Perhaps this time you’re ready to part with that thing and maybe not, but you’ve made contact with it again. And maybe that’s better than pretending it’s not there.
Whether it’s our emotional stuff or stuff of the tangible kind, we can acknowledge we see it, recognize the ways we’ve grown, hold out hope. When I refrain from so harshly judging myself in the areas I fall short, expecting perfection, I allow myself to inhale grace in the ordinary. And the exhale touches others in my life.
I note the knee-jerk stress response, the self-disappointment, pick up the same drawing, photo or birthday card — think, “Oh, there you are again.”
I recognize the movement, small and slow though it might be. It’s the movement of a life.
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Thank you for sharing. I appreciate the fact that you are being gentle with yourself. I just recently moved and a majority of my stuff moved with me. I went looked at, touched, discarded and keep some of it. At times I have been able to be patient and kind with myself and other times I dissolve into shame. I am continuing to deal with it and walk with God through it all. I may never get done.
Linda, thank you for your words here. I truly relate to what you are saying, as so often this organizing, purging, decluttering process has been filled with shame for me….it makes me sad to think about, actually.
These emotional responses we have to and with our things do come and go. I am praying that you would receive God’s grace for you in the process, recognizing the good of the journey and not just the (imagined) destination. I appreciate your presence. Bless you.
I miss your words when I am gone, living my life life and my writing life. Coming here feels like “a coming home again” sort of familiar place. Love it here. And love you. My soul-word-friend. I heard something once which stuck with me about making the decision to part with something. Which I have had to do a lot of recently too. Once the gift has been given the transaction is complete. So it is okay to give it away. I remember that a lot when releasing “old gifts” and ‘Things”. The sweet transaction between giver and the receiver has occurred.
I feel the very same about you and your writing home. You are a dear soul sister, Elizabeth. Thank you for relaying your experience about parting with things, particularly gifts. I’ve had a really hard time with that over the years. I will be repeating “the transaction is complete” to myself when I sort through the next piles. I actually shared that wisdom with a friend just this morning. Sending love to you, friend.
Ashley I really love the spiral that has the potential to move both upwards and inwards.(But also moves from the center, out.) It feels that life is very much about this, moving along our spirals as we hone in on what our “work” is. And it seems the “work” has a theme that runs throughout a life. We approach the same challenges over and over, only they aren’t quite the same – they’re new in some (maybe small) way because we’re ready for it now. I feel a real grace in that. There IS an expectation that we work at what our work IS, but never that we perfect it. So, all the time, I find myself saying, oh it’s you again. (All that having been said, the paper clutter of a life with young children is a dragon that few have the gift to tame! And maybe we miss something even more important while off taming dragons. So be gentle on you!) xo
Thank you for words of grace, Mama. Seems there’s a lot of truth to this “life work” thing…and to the taming of dragons — I know you’ve been there. Yes!
I don’t have many words right now… except that I get this. So, so tracking with you. I’m right there, both with physical stuff and emotional. Urgh. And yet, His process is so trustworthy.
Love your heart, Ashley. Appreciate you so much.
Appreciate you too, Dana. Thankful to know, once again, that we understand one another’s hearts in these life processes, knowing the one who is faithful.
Uh – yeah! You put it so well when you said “the deeper” and “the higher.” It isn’t linear growth at all. I am up against the circle back of some things today that have stopped me in my tracks and caused me to go deeper and higher. Love the way God speaks to me through your words.
Bless you dear Kelly. Praying for you in the deeper and higher work. Grace, grace, much grace to you, my friend.
Love this Ashley. So good to be thinking on these thoughts as I move. There is a lot of “oh, there you are again”.
Oh, yes, ain’t that the truth? Moving brings it ALL up. You are walking through this with such grace, my dear friend.
Woven so well my friend.
I love your approach on the ordinary because that is just what so much of life is, Oridnary and yet mystery.
I love this quote by Buechner, “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
You my friend have spoken the reminder of grace.
Thank you, my darling, for all the ways you teach and encourage me, speak grace right into the middle of the hard stuff of life. And did you know that Buechner quote is the one I used on my very last day of the 31 days project? I LOVE it! Should paint it and gaze upon it daily. I love you.
So many times when I finish reading your words, Ashley, I find there’s a lot astir in my chest region, lots of words and thoughts and emotions and impressions, and it can be hard to know what to say. You just go deep, you always do. It can seem so “ordinary,” like your opening sentence here, but oh friend, it never is. Not in any dull sense of the word. There is always something fresh in your ordinary, something pushing through, either upward or spiraling center – and often both – and I love how I leave here feeling like I’m digesting something profound and true and good. I have missed you, sweet one. I wish I could come walk with you in the rain…
Truly, you are speaking a language we all understand. I’m getting better. When I come around again to “that thing” I’ve become gentler, more patient. When it’s “stuff” in physical form, I’ve gotten better with releasing. And, Oh, the Lightness, for having done it. Somehow, these phases often intertwine, and so it goes. I very much relate to this and it is the “work” of our souls and being as current with “stuff” as we can be for that time. Much love to you for voicing “us all” AGAIN and AGAIN the way you Bravely do! :D
Pondering your eloquent words as I sit rocking my new grandson. I love the “mrs sentimental” about you. You see the extraordinary in a life cluttered with children :)