On my last birthday, a
friend presented me with a gorgeous amber necklace that
she had gotten in Russia twenty years ago before she emigrated
to the United States. Though she felt that it did not suit
her, she held onto it for two decades for sentimental reasons.
When she gave it to me, she apologized for it not being
a new store-bought thing, but I was thrilled. Not only does
it suit me perfectly, but I was extremely touched by her
sharing of this nostalgic gem.
And I completely understood
her motivation for giving it away. It is common for women
in midlife to display an overwhelming urge to purge, to
clean out, throw out, refuse, release, discard, to distill
and streamline all of our attachments. We refine our needs
and tastes and now want to be surrounded by only those people,
places, and things that add something positive to our lives.
If we are to practice
living life with intention, purpose, and appreciation, we
are called to take stock — on every level imaginable
— material, mental, emotional, and spiritual. And
we feel the need to evaluate everything in terms of its
value to us. Do our belongings, attitudes, ideas, obligations,
commitments, habits, goals, dreams, relationships, and wardrobes
still fit us? Do they suit us and our current life style?
Are they flattering? Do they please us? Do they continue
to serve us? Do they feed us what we need? Or do they drain
our energy and slow us down by the amount of maintenance
that they require?
It seems to me that we
spend the first half of our lives accumulating things and
the second half getting rid of them, paring our possessions
down to a manageable cache. At some point in our middle
years, it is important to take the time to catalogue what
it is we have, what we have accumulated, what we hold onto,
what we have carried with us through the years, and what
we would be better off letting go of. As we face the second
half of our lives, it is prime time to check our baggage
and lighten up our load.
With practice, we can
distinguish which of our possessions and commitments expresses
our true desires, needs, values, and aesthetics, and which
do not. Which relationships serve us in a reciprocal manner,
and which do not. Which engagements, involvements, and assignments
are fulfilling and life-affirming and which are empty busywork.
“It's not so much how busy you are, but why you are
busy,” The writer Marie O'Conner reminds us. “The
bee is praised; the mosquito is swatted.”
A thorough house cleaning,
internal as well as external, is a fabulous way to delineate
the purpose of our lives. Letting go of the inessential
creates an elegant order to our existence. An orderly house
always seems like the invitation to a fresh start, which
is why so many cultures incorporate a thorough house scrubbing,
a clean sweep, as it were, as well as an internal ablution
in their New Year’s rituals. Our messy thinking and
sloppy habits come more easily into focus when our surroundings
are tidy and beautiful and filled with only what is meaningful,
so that we can release them, as well.
When we clear out the inessentials, we make space for ourselves
to grow and expand to fill the void. With the chaff, the
distractions, and dirty corners of our environments and
minds cleared away, we can better see the structure of our
lives, the foundations of our support, the bare bones that
comprise our true Selves, and dedicate ourselves to living
a more authentic life.
The Queen Suggests:
House Cleaning From the Inside Out
Throw out, re-cycle,
or donate one thing every day. This is a great practice
in claiming what is important to you and discarding what
Spend an evening in the
closet playing dress up. Get rid of everything that that
doesn’t fit your figure or your evolved Self-image.
Eliminate one food from
your diet that you know you should not eat. When you get
used to living without it, eliminate one more.
Send all of the novels
that you know you will never re-read to a school or hospital
library. And that pile of magazines, too.
Clean out your paper
and computer files, your address book, old correspondence,
and tax records. How much of that clutter is really relevant
Do the same with your
medicine cabinet and cosmetic drawers. How many of the products
crammed in there merely mask superficial symptoms and flaws
rather than enhance your essential strength and beauty?
Remove yourself from
situations and relationships that no longer nurture you.
Refuse what does not interest you.
Monitor your thoughts,
and edit the negative, Self-derogatory ones in mid-stream.
Eliminate stinking thinking.
Reduce stress through
yoga, exercise, breathing techniques, warm baths, sex, music,
Eliminate the accumulated
toxins in your body by fasting occasionally.
Slough off the old, like
a snake shedding its skin, or a butterfly its cocoon. Emerge
renewed and energized.