The benefits of simplicity

The benefits of simplicity

A couple weeks ago, I found myself spending a weekend in a hotel outside of Philadelphia. Why? Because my daughter was visiting a friend in college, didn’t want to drive herself, and I certainly wasn’t going to make the four-hour round trip twice in one weekend. Sure she could have taken public transportation…but yeah, that’s the kind of mother I am.

There was something in it for me, though. I had a bunch of paperwork and other laptop-based tasks to get caught up on and I saw this as an opportunity to focus without the distractions found at home. It was an efficiency room, residence-type hotel that could accommodate the dog for an extra $10 (a bargain considering the added expense of a kennel or dog sitter for two days). Plus I brought food and could prepare my own meals.

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A room with a view. Horsham, Pennsylvania. October, 2017 

So for two whole days I was self-contained and self-sufficient. Didn’t have to leave the room (except to walk him), which was a good thing because Enzo would not have been happy if left in the room alone and would surely have made enough noise to have us evicted. The weekend went as planned. I got my work done and also learned something. Simplicity feels good.

“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”
— Frederic Chopin

Having everything I needed – and only what I needed – in one room was calming. It reminded me of being between houses when my daughter was a toddler. We lived for nine months at my mother-in-law’s home. While the situation was understandably stressful, it was balanced by the simplicity of having everything but necessities in storage and not having the responsibility of being the homeowner.

These are important lessons to draw on as I prepare my house for sale and my daughter and I for a move. A friend who did it last year advised me to spend the time I had in the year ahead to weed out the clutter so it didn’t become a huge job at the last minute. Good advice.

Not long after my parents became empty nesters, they sold my childhood home and began the process of downsizing. I remember finding them one day sorting through their belongings, which had been tucked away in the attic for decades. My father was tossing his WWII Army Air Corps uniform into a big Hefty bag. Horrified, I stopped him. “That would be like mom throwing out her wedding gown!” My mom looked up from her pile and said, “Threw it out two days ago!”

I didn’t understand at all how they could part with so many precious symbols of their lives that they had held on to all these years. I couldn’t understand it then. I understand it now. As I start to think about my own empty nest and moving to a smaller place, practicality takes over to a certain degree; but it’s something else too.

By middle age, we’ve experienced so much more and learned to value simplicity. We also have a lot more clarity about what is important, what is worth saving, and where it’s okay to let go. I have a plastic bin in the basement labeled “Sheehy”. It contains a few bits and pieces of what’s left of my parent’s lives that they, and ultimately, I, still regard as important. I guess that’s a good thing to remember. Our lives will inevitably become a box in someone’s basement or attic. So only hold on to what’s really important so it’s simple for someone to keep.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” 
— Antoine de Saint Exupéry

I am following my friend’s advice. I’ve started weeding through the clutter and discarding a lot. Making donations. Contemplating another garage sale. I have china and glassware inherited after cleaning out my mother’s and my aunt’s homes, sentimental knick-knacks, and too much furniture. I think parting with meaningful things will be less of an issue than trying to consolidate the contents of a four-bedroom house into a two-bedroom apartment.

I went looking for help on the Internet and found some great ideas worth passing along…This is a great how-to: The Four Laws of Simplicity, and How to Apply Them to Life. And if you’re having trouble starting there, maybe read this first: 7-Steps to Inner Simplicity.

It has been my experience that simplifying my environment will calm the mind and move me closer to an inner peace. Less is more is a philosophy I have applied to my training as an aging runner. Keeping it simple assures my running continues to be a stress reliever, and does not add stress, both physically and mentally. The older I get, the more I realize how true this is for everything.

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Tyler State Park. Newtown, Pennsylvania. October, 2017.

And here’s an idea for runners looking to clean-out T-shirt drawers. I have run close to 270 races, which mean close to 270 race shirts. As soon as I get the shirt home I take a picture of it. Then I place it in one of three piles: Keeper (will be added to my wardrobe), Donation (nice shirt for someone else), Tosser (usually long sleeves and sweatshirts, that I wear at the start of a race in cool weather and toss at the start – usually collected by race organizers and donated too).  For now I’m keeping the pictures in a folder on my computer, but plan to make an album, matching them up with the bib numbers. Project for another day.

 

 

 

You don’t know how it feels

You don’t know how it feels

This is another week in which I wrote something that will be saved for publishing another day. When I work with clients, sometimes it becomes apparent that there is an emotional issue we need to work through before we can focus on anything else. The term we use for that is clearing. Sometimes the client needs time to be in that moment…to be angry, sad, concerned or even celebratory…before they can focus on next steps toward their goals. So as this week unfolded, I realized I couldn’t just publish what I wrote last weekend. And honestly, it has taken me all week to process my emotions.

Americans are absolutely right to be outraged at the toll of guns. Just since 1970, more Americans have died from guns than all the Americans who died in wars going back to the American Revolution (about 1.45 million vs. 1.4 million). That gun toll includes suicides, murders and accidents, and these days it amounts to 92 bodies a day.

We spend billions of dollars tackling terrorism, which killed 229 Americans worldwide from 2005 through 2014, according to the State Department. In the same 10 years, including suicides, some 310,000 Americans died from guns.

Nicholas Kristof, Jan. 16, 2016, Some Inconvenient Gun Facts for Liberals, New York Times

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Let’s talk about this – it may save a life

Let’s talk about this – it may save a life

This is National Suicide Prevention Week (September 10-16). We all know what suicide is. We hear about it. It’s something that happens to other people. I remember being touched by a documentary called The Bridge many years ago. I thought about it a lot when I had the incredible opportunity to run over the Golden Gate years later. I could never have imagined then how I would be touched by suicide.

WARNING SIGNS OF SUICIDE

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide.

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A few reasons why runners make better employees

A few reasons why runners make better employees

When I first started running – that is dragging myself out of bed early in the morning, often in the dark – I noticed something. I was suddenly more awake on my commute into the city.  I was a little more focused when I got to the office.  The more I ran, the more I was able to apply the discipline it took to complete those morning runs to my work later in the day.

Running made me a better employee!  The meditative value of running also allowed me to think through issues; I’d often arrive at work after a morning run with solutions to yesterday’s challenge. I even had the courage to transition from a dissatisfying sales career to a very meaningful position planning events for a local non-profit.

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A challenge to be thankful for one thing everyday

A challenge to be thankful for one thing everyday

I was going to publish something totally different today and then this morning this “memory” from 2014 popped into my Facebook news feed:

What I’m positive about/thankful for…Day 5 of 5…

1. I can run, as it may be the only thing that’s keeping me sane (I’m also thankful for my amazing coach, Rob McCarthy, who also has me running fast, which is keeping my self esteem at an all time high);

2. I’m thankful for my friends…all of you…and especially a few in particular (who I won’t call out here in fear that someone not included may feel slighted)…the really special ones – you know who you are – you have been there when I needed you, you knew when to make me laugh, when to just listen, when I needed a pep talk, you knew the right thing to say, or knew when it was best to say nothing at all , you’ve made the last 5 months fly by and made sure I knew I was a survivor. Thank you!

3. And finally, my dog, because when all else fails, I never doubt that at least HE loves me.

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