Last Light On

turned on pendant lamp
Photo by Burak Kebapci on Pexels.com

A habit of mine, left over from years in sales and management, is following trending articles and posts on LinkedIn.  I have a few reasons for still doing it, although it’s been a year since I left the corporate world.

I enjoy seeing the accomplishments of friends I used to have lunches with- those who have put in the hours and years and finally got to the rung of the ladder they’ve always wanted.

I grumble about the CEOs bragging about increased margins (all the while I cringe knowing it came from layoffs that affected some friends).

Part of me keeps reading thinking that if I ever go back, I’ll still be in the loop.

Then there are articles that make me sad- remembering the time I spent chasing paper.  One article I saw today showed a photo of a single light on in an office.  The caption read “That’s my office light on because I’m the last one to leave the entire office building.  The money isn’t going to come to you. You have to put in the work to get that money” (C. Sanders)

The humble brag.  Or the mantra to make yourself justify the time spent away from children, family, friends.  The Badge of Honor of the sales professional- I work the hardest, I get the biggest paycheck.

I did it too.  I bragged about sending emails and working spreadsheets at 3 am.  I had conference calls in McDonald’s parking lots with my son in the back seat with a Happy Meal while I coached a sales team over the phone.  I skipped funerals. I missed parties.  I showed up late or not at all to friend’s weddings.

I was the one with the last light on in the office.

At many points in my life, my hustle meant keeping a roof over my son and my head.   At other points in life, I did it just for the bragging rights- the look at me, I’m a “real” sales professional.  I wanted to impress bosses. I wanted to impress family and friends.   Maybe I had a complex that I ‘only’ had a degree in fine art, and somehow getting a paycheck with benefits validated my existence.

Instead of crucifying myself and rehashing the guilt from leaving my crying son at home for 2 weeks while I attended a sales training- I try to remember that in every season of life certain things will have to be done.  Those hours I poured into work- the company has long forgotten- but the paychecks kept food on the table.

I just hope that when those times come again, I work the hours for the right reasons and not just for bragging rights on LinkedIn.

Check In

A checkup and check in since reducing my digital social media-

To recap- I recently unfollowed everyone (almost 400 people) on Facebook.  Groups. Sales Pages. Businesses I liked. Bands. TV shows.  Things I didn’t remember joining. Friends, family.  I was unmerciful. I unfollowed it all.

For a week, I’d spin thru my abbreviated newsfeed and only find an occasional rogue group or person I had missed on my cull.  I slowly weaned myself off even checking the timeline because now there was nothing on it.

Twitter and Instagram too it’s place.  Twitter, however, is now gone.  I found I am not witty enough for the banter.  I don’t understand half what is written there, and I had nothing meaningful to contribute to it.  Gone.

Instagram has been wonderful. I am filling my feed with artists from around the world- some I know or knew from school- most I have never met, but admire.  I have satisfied my urge to control what I see with this feed.

With Facebook, I did find that I missed out on some important things- a friend’s cancer journey made me pause and revisit who and what I follow on it.  I have slowly added family and friends back on- not nearly the number I had.  Most groups I muted, and check when there is something I need- not when Facebook decides I need to hear something.

There is a sweet, precious life waiting for me on the other side of the bright lights of my smartphone screen.  I have lived it once, because I am old enough to remember life before computers in the home and smartphones in every hand.   I would love to get back to that life- and focus on the real, tangible world surrounding me- 100% focus on my family and work.

I am hoping that by tightly controlling my newsfeed, I can inch closer to my dream of a less digital life.

Waiting

It’s 2 a.m., and my 6 week old daughter is flailing her little arms and legs in the air as I try to wrangle her into a fresh diaper.

It’s her usual wake up time- a diaper first, then a cuddle and a warm bottle to settle her back down for the rest of the night.

Tonight, the bottle warmer doesn’t seem to be going fast enough for her; her eyes well up with sad tears, and she starts to wail.  Her arms pump in frustration- even offering a pacifier brings no comfort to her.  I gently whisper, “Wait just a moment more, little one, the bottle is almost ready”.   She doesn’t understand me, or know that a warm bottle will be better for her than the chilly one from the refrigerator.  All she knows is her hungry tummy, and the anger of not being listened to or answered.

It makes me wonder if that’s how we look to God sometimes-  like little children, with our pouting and crying when we ask for things.  We don’t think he is listening, or answering quickly enough, or at all.  How often have I prayed for something I wanted, and tearfully beg God for relief, only to be made to wait a little longer.  I remember Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord”.

It’s difficult to do that in this society that values immediate gratification.  Even in situations that are heart wrenching, I wonder sometimes why doesn’t God deliver me immediately? Doesn’t he care for my pains?  Matthew 7:11 “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  

But like my daughter- crying in the night- sometimes I can’t see that the thing I want most may not be ready for me. But, by waiting, it will be exactly what I need, in the exact time that I need it.

The bottle finally heated, my baby drinks quietly and drifts back to sleep.  I imagine God whispering to me “Wait a moment more, little one”.

 

Minimalist Confessions

Shower
Perhaps I can start by Kon Marie-ing here

My fellow Minimalists- I am here for confession.  I have sinned against all tenants of Minimalism- Behold, my shower stall.  How many adults do you think live here?  The answer- 2.  And in total, 8 shampoos, 2 conditioners, 2 face washes, and 2 Body washes.

How did this happen? I’ve been so careful to downsize the rest of my life.  Clothing gets sorted once a month for donation.  Old books taken out. Magazines removed.  My digital detox where I removed my news feed from Facebook and turned off email notifications.

The fact is, Minimalism is a journey, not an end result.  Something that needs constant monitoring so not to fall back into old habits.

This mess of a collection began by me highlighting my hair.  I tend to go brassy, so I needed a toning shampoo.  Then my usual shampoos dried out my hair, so I purchased (on sale) two others. They also left my hair dry.  My husband ran out of his usual, and I couldn’t find it at the store, so I grabbed the next best one.  Then a few days later, I found the actual one he wanted so I got that too.

So here we are, faced with the cold hard truth staring at me every time I take a shower. Instead of enjoying my tub time, I am wracked with guilt at the waste of product and money.  And that is just one tiny corner of my life.

The good news is, it will all be used or donated to my sister- I am loathe to throw away perfectly good product.

It was eye opening, and a good reminder for me to be diligent with how I spend my money, and what thought process I take before I make purchases.

So while my digital detox is going smoothly, I will need to move on to the physical items around me.  Again, I am Minimalist in Training….

Best In Life

“Conan! What is best in life?”

The movie line wandered thru my head early one evening.  For years and years, my answer would have been- “To climb to the next promotion, score the biggest commission check, win the trip to California– Get the admiration of my peers and congratulations from my managers”.

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Not my ride. But close to what I had.

I would have thought a new Coach bag.  New mufflers for the Mustang.  Two cell phones, because who can have just one number?

Chanel perfume.  Dior mascara. Gel manicures and weekly pedicures.  $300 haircuts and highlights.

Big screen tvs. Latest Xbox. Blue Ray collection before Blue Ray was a thing.  GPS units. Fit-bit trackers.

These things in themselves are fine, and many are high quality well working products.

What was wrong in my mind was the relentless pursuit of them, then the acquisition of them, and finally the disappointment soon after when the “Next Best Thing” was announced.

What also was wrong was the 70 hour work weeks.  Being 30 pounds overweight. Blowing off family events for manager meetings no one would remember two weeks later.   Email and chats with co workers at 3 am about spreadsheets as if it were government policy we were writing.  Only to have the big project scrapped just over a year later, all that time and stress amounting to nothing– and the big paychecks spent and forgotten.

I’d be a hypocrite if I said I still don’t enjoy nice electronics.  Or reading up on the newest phone features.   Scrolling thru Pinterest for the latest hair styles, or shopping on Amazon for little things for the kids.

On the evening I remembered the line from Conan the Barbarian, I no longer thought of these things.

What’s best in life? Listening to my son make-believe stories with his Legos.   Watching my baby girl smile in her sleep after a warm bottle.  Coming down the stairs in the morning and seeing my husband’s slippers next to mine.  A cup of fresh coffee, and some sunshine thru the trees as the birds sing their good mornings.

I wish I could tell my 20 year old self to be careful what you sell your time and soul for.  That the things I chased would be shadows and memories nearly as soon as I grasped them in my hand.  And that all I was looking for would be the most simple, peaceful things this world can offer.

 

 

Show and Tell Day

I had a comment from a reader asking how my scheduled time on and off social media was going.

The short answer:  Not very well.

I managed to delete the apps from my phone. I found myself on the web versions instead.

I meant to only use Facebook during breakfast hours- I secretly scroll thru at 2 am when I can’t sleep.

Rationally, I know this is unhealthy. I don’t know if it’s the fear of missing out combined with the happiness of a “like” on a post or picture.  It also doesn’t help that many people are suggesting that I can draw more business to my artwork, or Avon, or whatever thru the ‘magic’ of social media.

 

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I can remember the days Pre-Social Media.

None of this is true.   I listened to a podcast from the Minimalists yesterday, and they discussed their renewed and revamped use of social media for 2018.  During the conversation they made a great point about the actual “work” they do is their books and lectures- that social media should simply support announcing it. Social Media should not be the ‘work’ itself.

 

Eye opening for me- Especially when I read online multiple blogs about tips and tricks to getting savvy with social media. How to craft a twitter post that will attract followers; or how many hashtags to use on Instagram to direct traffic.

What am I directing them to if I spend all my time tweaking social media? I have crafted nothing, painted nothing- nothing to show at all for all this time.

I deactivated Twitter this morning.  I thought long and hard about my decision (total of ten minutes while brewing some coffee).  Over a year on Twitter and I had a amassed a newsfeed that included random store announcements from wireless carriers;  Bill Shatner’s ranting; and some Women in Art feeds.  The art feed I will miss, but I’m sure I can find the same information on Facebook or Instagram.

When I would scroll thru Twitter, I would find myself angry- either from something I read, or feeling not ‘cool’ enough for the Twitter scene.  There’s enough bitterness in this world, so I hit the deactivate button without a second thought.

Instagram was up next- most of what is on there I already see on Facebook thanks to the share button my friends use.  However, unlike Facebook where I have to “friend request” other artists who may not know me at all, or don’t remember me from years ago- I can simply follow them and their work on Instagram.  I get a lot of joy from seeing their paintings and inspiration to get me back to the canvas so, childlike, I can also post a painting on Show and Tell.

Maybe that’s the allure of social media in general-  What kid didn’t like to bring in something for Show and Tell day at school?  All eyes on you while you showed your prize possession- mandated quiet from the class so that you are heard.  Applause at the end of the presentation.

We are just big kids looking for the applause in the form of a “Like” or a “Heart” or a new “Follower”.

 

9 Simple Things That Bring Me Joy

Some simple things I enjoy that cost little to nothing. Prior to finding Minimalism, my list would have been more along the lines of what expensive handbag or cell phone I could purchase.

In no particular order–

-My morning coffee.  I have a Keurig that I will be retiring soon, and my Dad donated a French IMG_1135Press to me.  I love grinding beans before I brew- I have yet to find a more soothing morning routine and a better cup of coffee anywhere.

-Listening to the birds in the hedges.  I am up early enough with the pups and my son so I can listen to their music rather than turn on a station on Alexa.  It’s sweet, and pure and good for the soul.  Plus there are no commercials.

-Painting.  Something I do not do enough. In all fairness, I am two weeks from delivering baby, so it’s sort of uncomfortable to sit at the canvas for hours as before.   I enjoy interpreting the world around me however I want to- If you’ve never painted before, it’s great for focus and also relaxing.

-Reading. Or being read to- I have an Audible subscription I use on long trips, and I make use of the Kindle app on my phone and tablet.  Sometimes I get nostalgic for a good ‘real’ book in my hand, and I don’t feel guilty picking one up at the book store.

-Listening to my son play.  He has a big imagination, as most kids do, and likes to tell stories aloud as he creates things with Legos.  I would never be able to record all of the stories he’s spun- I hope my memory holds so that I can replay them when I am old.

-Baking bread.  I cheat. I use a Breadman machine I got several years ago at a yard sale for $2.  I’m not the best baker, but this lets me feel like I could be- and the smell of fresh bread baking makes any day better.  I also like that I control how much sugar is in it, and there’s no weird preservatives.  One of the best $2 investments I have ever made.

-Doing my own manicures.  Blame it on my years in ‘corporate’ life- I do like a fresh polish.  I do refuse to pay the money that I used to spend on one.  I make my own hand scrub with olive oil and sugar; use almond oil for a hand lotion, then file and paint.  It took me several months to get competent in painting them.  Well worth the effort, though.  And I find good quality polish on sale at grocery stores- last one I picked up was $.75.

-Gardening.  Although this year it may be scaled back to some planters of tomatoes and peppers, I like the process of watching seeds grow.  It also gets me some Vitamin D time in the sun and a yummy harvest at the end of the season.

-Hot foot bath.  I don’t have time in the day for a full bath, but I sneak 10 minutes in here and there for a warm Epson Salt and essential oil foot bath.  No essential oils on hand? No problem, some sliced lemon or orange, or vanilla to scent it works just as well.  Perfect for unwinding before bedtime.

If I sit a little longer, I’m sure I’d think of more simple things to bring me joy- Feel free to share yours in the comments section.