Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Getting Rid of the Clutter

Day 18 of Your Year to Wellness
When I first set out on a journey towards total wellness, I witnessed many unintended consequences, like being less anxious among strangers and less fearful of forgetting something in the middle of a lecture but there was  another major thing that someone else had to point out for me. One day, I got a call from one of the folks who work at my favorite boutique. He called to say that everyone there was wondering where I was or if something had happened to me. In that moment I realized that as I was becoming more well, I shopped much less---stay with me here.

This was not something I set out to do, it happened on its own. When I made this observation, I began to look more closely at the why and here’s what I came up with. When I weighed 290 pounds I still had to travel, speak to thousands of people weekly and walk about in my hometown. I grew up with the idea that if you’re going to be big, you had to make sure that you looked your best at all times and so I set out to do just that. I wore wonderful fabrics that flowed and announced my presence before I even stepped into the room. My accessories were bold and colorful like me and proclaimed that I was not ashamed of my size or my heritage. I’ve worn platforms since I first discovered them in the eighth grade and so for me, they have never gone out of style. Like most big girls I love shoes (it’s the only thing that we know for sure will fit; we don’t have to disrobe in a brightly lit dressing room to try them on and a good pair will force people to look down at our feet.) I have a wonderful collection of shoes that could be described as art. So when I suddenly stopped shopping the shop keepers all wondered why.

I decided to stop in to say hi, to let the folks at the shop know that I was okay and when I did they were stunned. “Oh I see why you haven’t been here.” One woman exclaimed. “You look amazing and you no longer need to shop. I’ve seen this before.” She said. She smiled and told me that buying beautiful things fills a need when you don’t feel so beautiful. I told her that I always felt beautiful and that the shop played a part in it. She agreed but  pointed out something that I hadn’t seen myself; she said that I may have felt beautiful, but now I no longer had the need to prove it. WOW!

In the first month of my wellness journey, I decided to get rid of everything that didn’t fit. This was a tremendously difficult endeavor. I had too many items that still had tags and I told myself that I had spent far too much to just give them away but somehow I did and I immediately felt lighter. The old clothes that had mocked me each time I opened the closet door were no longer there whining and wondering about when it would be their turn to get out of the closet. I had given them all away. The energy of that release was too delicious to describe. By simply giving things away, I felt lighter and freer. The very next week, I had lost enough weight to wear a dress I had bought but had never worn; I went to get it and remembered that I had given it away. For a moment, I felt a loss and then I decided that giving it away was what I needed to do; it freed up my brain enabling my body to follow.

I’ve come to see that I bought all of those beautiful clothes to compensate for a not so beautiful body. Don’t get me wrong, I always felt good about myself but I didn’t feel good enough. I had to let go of my old things to be open and available to my new self.

·         What can you get rid of? You don’t need to get rid of everything that doesn’t fit but we can all get rid of something.

·         What are you collecting? Is it collecting you? We often try to compensate for areas of our life where we don’t feel that we measure up by holding on to things from the past. These things often represent a time when you believed that life was better and that you were too. Your life and time is now. If you have too many things that you are not using now, pass them on to someone who can.

·         Which five items would you keep? Of the things that you are hoarding, oops sorry, I meant collecting, which 5 items would you keep? What do they represent or remind you of?

·         Why can’t you let go? Make a list of the reasons why you are holding on to things and make the case to yourself that the stuff you are holding onto is somehow important to breathing and thinking differently.

·         Who can you help? When I travel outside of the U.S. I see just how much stuff I have. One of the first things I do when I get home is to de-clutter. I think of who I can assist and often see that the folks I need to help have a lot in common with me. I reach out to single mothers and students who are first generation college kids. I reach out to young mothers and their children and when I do, I can see my own past. Each act of kindness towards someone who is on the same road that I’ve been on helps me to see my journey more clearly.

Free yourself of the stuff you’ve been keeping that’s keeping you.

Be you, be Well and Breathe

Bertice Berry, PhD

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