It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us.
Do you know that you’re surrounded by stuff that talks to you all the time? If you have some difficulty during the holidays, (and a lot of people do) it’s an ideal time to clean up your environment before you start to decorate on top of the stuff that’s telling you stories that keep you off balance. Why could that be so? Because objects have meaning. How we get them, why we do, what they mean to us always accompanies their presence even if we’re not conscious of their constant communication.
I remember when I was a kid, my mom would move things around while getting ready to get out the holiday decorations and would off-handedly talk to the air when she was doing it. I’m sure she didn’t realize what she was teaching me but I never forgot her reactions to certain objects. I know she loved this beautiful statue of the goddess Lakshmi that my parents’ friends, the Sharmas, had gifted her with because she would dust it and lovingly place it on a shelf above her favorite chair. I know she loved it because she literally would sigh and say, “I love this—I must call her this week!” I learned the object represented friendship and desire for meaningful connection. We weren’t ever mad at that piece of art. As I inherited it, it also is prominent in my office to remind me of their beautiful friendship. I feel wistful for connection and loving when I look at it. This statue always reminds me of the abundance of friendship.
My dad had gotten a gift from the president of one of the companies he worked with. The man and his wife had been to our home many times. It was a beautiful crystal vase brimming with chocolates wrapped in metallic papers. My mom opened the card and saw it was signed by this man’s wife. She immediately announced, “I can’t stand that woman!” My dad walked in from his study as he saw my mom removing the beautiful vase still filled with chocolates and putting in a box to go to the basement while she muttered about things I didn’t yet understand. He wasn’t happy. (neither was I because I was hoping she’d hand over all the chocolates to me and my sister) “ Why are you doing that?” “ Because I can’t stand that woman that’s why!” Glaring at my dad, out went the innocent vase, and the haunting chocolates. My Dad decided it wasn’t worth fighting for and my mom pitched the offending items in the trash.
Note to young self .. some objects come with big stories that can be upsetting although I really didn’t get the part of throwing out chocolates too. I mean how could chocolate ever cause offense??
Later on in life when our family became destitute, the antique heirlooms they collected became something else altogether. Their meaning shifted and the stories they told were one of fear and anxious uncertainty. The antique carpets, furniture, and paintings took on a new story as my parents literally survived on selling all their precious objects for considerably less than they were worth until there were none left. I had never seen my mother cry until then.
When my dad died we had his ashes put into one of the beautiful ornate vases my parents hung on to. After my mom died the next year and we put her ashes in the last big vase we had, we realized the one my dad was in was a Satsuma vase, worth over 30 thousand bucks at auction but rendered worthless with my dad inside.
Talk about surrendering a story of “what things mean”.
So here’s an experiment I’d love you to try and then come back and share your experience in the comments.
First, have a look around and just notice in general what objects do you see and what stories do they whisper to you when you tune into your relationship to them?
Does anything stand out?
We are going to look for two objects specifically one that makes you feel crappy and one that makes you happy.
Don’t avoid sadness. For example, if you have your pet’s ashes and it brings up a sense of loss, this is not to be avoided. It’s these moments where the poignancy of loss is accompanied by an open heart. The story of you and your pet is steeped in love. Let them stay. If you’ve lost a loved one and you miss them, that’s ok too. Leave those be.
Example of #1: I had a vase (guess I have a thing with vases) gifted to me by a wealthy client. It was a beautiful fine porcelain. The problem was that every time I looked at it I was reminded how condescending and critical she was, nothing was ever good enough, and she was one of those clients who actively looked down on others. I had cut myself off some years before but there was my reminder. Why did I keep it? It was expensive and I felt obligated. Once I became aware of that sticky fact, I gave it to a friend who had always admired it. She sees it in a different way. Now when I see it at her house I feel good!
Example of #2: my mom had an old Singer sewing machine. I kept it for the longest time. It was one object that somehow reminded me of the best of her. I loved looking at it. It made me feel good. Same with an old wooden spoon she gave me. I still have it. It’s pretty much all I have left of her and that spoon oozes with love and good memories.
So, the experiment here is about the meaning of the things in your environment. Much like professional tidier Marie Kondo’s question, “does it spark joy?” The idea is that if it doesn’t, then remove it.
First, get the stories. Compare the two objects. Which one hurts, bugs you, shames you (like those jeans that don’t even go up past your knees that you keep for when you’re slimmer) or reminds you of experiences you’ve outgrown, etc. Which one makes you feel good?
Believe me now? Before you decorate on top of these things, maybe, just maybe you might consider cleaning up first.
Love to hear your stories!!!
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