A few weeks ago I decided that I would take care of a few things around the house that had been neglected. I stained the deck, put away my laundry (that is a task for me), did some yard stuff, car stuff and house stuff too. I was killing it. I was getting things done. I was making the wife happy with all the picture hanging, dusting of furniture, vacuuming (you know everywhere) and I even joined the Veteran's of Foreign Wars (VFW) too. For the record that has been a 4 year promise that has just been filled. I mean I was killing it. I was checking the boxes of things that "needed to be done" off one by one. There was one chore that I avoided. I knew it needed to be done. Hell, it has been needing to be done for months and months. Lucky for me it was a chore in our office which is near the kids room. I never really go into the office so, as they say, "out of sight out of mind." After all the things had been done, hell, I even cleaned the garage to the point we can walk all around it, I could no longer avoid the office task waiting me. That task being shredding papers.
Yes, shredding is what sparked this blog. Let me paint this picture a bit. In my office we have a "shred" box under my wife's desk. She does all the bills so it is better near her. We have a kitchen trashcan size cross-shredder for the job. Since the last time I did the shredding we had filled that box, then another and had an overflow onto the floor like a mountain after an avalanche. There was a lot of paper. I am going to get this done I said and I set out to do it. I had no desire to cram myself into my office with all this paper begging to be murdered. So, I decide that I will do the shredding downstairs in the living room while watching some baseball talk shows. Since the Lakers aren't playing yet, the Kings (LA) aren't playing yet and the Raiders are sucking the life out of my very soul I avoid other sports channels and focus on the Dodgers right now. I'm protecting my mental state I tell you.
Anyway, back on track. I think i'll make three trips up and down the stairs bringing the shredding in two trips and the shredder in one trip. Seven trips later I get all the shredding down stairs. So you don't picture it in your mind I took picture of it. It looks just like this:
What you see here is 3 boxes of shredding for a family of 3 people. I looked at this task ahead of me and sighed. What the hell were we thinking not getting this done more frequently? I couldn't complain to my wife cause it was going to be a surprise when she walked into the office again she would be shocked to see we actually had an office floor after all. As I stood there for a moment I realized I needed a better picture because this shred pile sparked a thought which I would blog about later. For the record, this is the "later" I was thinking about. I needed the picture to be from above not from the ground. So, let me fix that real quick before we carry on.
Now this picture isn't to show off some of my wife's elephant obsessions or my comfy as hell chairs. Although as I look at them I want to go relax in my seat. ugh, damn pictures. It is about the pile of papers in front and about life too, which is the point of this blog. Let's go down the rabbit hole shall we?
As I stood there looking at the task at hand I saw life in general. I also saw a visual representation of what we do to ourselves in life. What do I mean you ask? Well, we clutter our lives to the point where the task of self-care (shredding in this case) seems to grand to be taken on. At this point, I realized I had sighed thinking of all the things I had to do on this day (day of shredding) and the 2 hours I figured it would take me to get through this pile. Right then I started to figure out ways to do just a little bit now and a little bit later and a little bit even further down the road like tomorrow. Damn it, here I was again trying to push it off for another time (again). This is also why I brought it downstairs because my wife would have a heart attack if I left her living room looking like this so I would be forced to take care of it. No! I thought to myself, It was now. I would have to deal with it right now.
There I stood trying to figure it out. Where do I start? How long will it take? Why did we let it get this far? Do we really need to shred at all? Notice, I still hadn't started working on the pile. I still hadn't started fixing the problem. I just moved it to the front. I put it in front of me. I took a picture of it knowing I would share it. I was wasting time avoiding the task (again). But how does this pile of paper reflect "life", you ask? I'm glad you asked.
How much stuff are we putting aside that we need to deal with but find excuses not to take care of it? I am willing to bet that for those who have read that question had a Rolodex of things run quickly through their minds as examples. We have unfinished business with family and friends. We have things unsaid, undone and downright avoided. We push them to the side for "later" and that never comes. Look at your belly? Is it bigger than you wished it to be? How many times have you started to do something about it? How many times have you pushed it to the side? If you think of all the things you were going to do as pieces of paper needing shredding how big would your pile be? This pile represents life. It represents the what we fail to take care of that we need to take care of. But it isn't just those things either, it runs deeper still because It is also about Self-care.
You see I look at this pile and think of my mind. How many things do I have on my mind that is cluttering it up? How many conversations am i having that needs to be recycled and put out? Look at the picture. I can't get to my chair because of the pile of paper. I literally can't relax with all that crap in-front of it. I can push it all to the side so I can sit down but it will all be within sight. Maybe I can hide it in a room somewhere until "later" but that is how I got here in the first place. This is how many of us live or day to day lives. We ignore the clutter and simply "add more" to the pile that we will take care of later. Eventually those very things block what helps us relax, helps us recharge or simply rest. Sure we can see the great picture in the back ground but how long will that last when we keep adding to the pile?
What we don't realize is that once we get use to "doing it later" we set a precedent of inactivity. How much harm can a little paper be? Again, look as if this was your mind. If this was the things you needed to clean up but kept waiting til later. It doesn't go away. In fact, it grows and grows and grows building an even bigger insurmountable pile. I instantly think of pictures like this:
This isn't my house nor is it my mind. While most of us don't have a house like this there are a lot of people with minds like this. I look at this picture and think the same thought I had when I looked at my pile of shredding. Where would I start? In this picture I'd say a match and gasoline but that would only destroy the house and cause more problems. I can't take a match and gas (drink and drugs would be equivalent for the mind i'd say) to my mind. Yet, this is what happens to each of us as we push aside what we need to take care of or handle as it will.
It would seem like a daunting task to deal with the mess in the other house. It would be overwhelming and not exactly something we would be eager to do I am sure. But we must. We must take on the clutter. One step at a time one "must do" and then another and then another.Before long the clutter will be less daunting. It will be less of a mountain. You see this last picture I am halfway done with my shredding. This pile, while annoying, would not have been so stress inducing. I would of probably said something like, "damn, that box is full" and knocked it out.
Now, imagine your mind with that level of clutter as opposed to the first picture of my living room. Now, compare it to the second picture of the other house. It is not hard to see how much better this is than those two. It is not hard to imagine how much better your mind would be in this stage of chaos over the other two. Self-care takes work and it takes effort to get rid of all the crap needing to be recycled which brings me to closing this piece.
The shredding did not take me 2-hours to do It took me 7-hours to complete.I had to stop twice to go teach and take care of "life" but I finished at 2 A.M. Every important paper had been cross-cut and put in trash bags. During my shred I found papers from 2010. I found papers, letter, bills from years ago. They were just there taking up space and blocking my relaxation. I think about how much of that I am doing within my mind and it makes me shutter. My brain, like my body, can't relax with all the old crap waiting to be shredded and sent on its merry way. What does it look like when you finally take care of all your left over crap?
In this case, four giant trash bags worth of stuff to be taken out. If someone one who cared about me pulled me to the side and said, "Sean, you have 4 giant trash bags of sh** cluttering your brain right now." to me I would call them crazy. No way would I be carrying all that nonsense. No way would I let the world be that hard on me. No way would I harm myself in such a way that I forget to take care of me. Yet, as I think of it now I can see how easily it is to add more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more (should I go on?) to my clutter.
Think about it even deeper and you will realize that each one of these bags I had to carry out one by one. Yes, I could carry one in each hand but, to be honest, they are heavy as hell. So I carried one at a time to my friends car who recycled them for me. Four trips to get rid of these bags, two trips for the boxes and one trip for the shredder back to the office. All that to finally get my rest. All that to finally step into the right mindset of self care. All that to let go of the clutter. I'll leave with one last picture and you can decide which would make a better room and a better mind. The first picture (all the clutter from below), the second (all the clutter from above), the third (house full of clutter), the fourth (halfway complete), the fifth (complete with bags) or this last one (you'll see)?
Don't let your mind, your body, your world get so out of whack you don't remember what peace of mind looks like. You are worth it.