After taking a couple of years off (or more), I’ve surprised myself by deciding to reinstitute a year-end reflection and planning routine. Or maybe it’s not a surprise: I’ve been in the process of a deep emotional and physical decluttering for a few months now, and this letting go is definitely facilitating more room.
The magic of letting go
I think most of us go through seasons of decluttering—maybe it’s in the inevitable flip side of living in a consumerist, go-go culture. What’s been different (and particularly lovely) about this particular round is the playfulness, ease and joy with which it’s been happening. For example, I’ve been caretaker to a dusty, full-sized Yamaha keyboard for over 2 years now, a hand-me-down of a hand-me-down from a friend who was moving back East. It sat in a prominent place in my home office, silently shaming me every time I passed by. Until about a week ago, when I met a new friend at brunch who happened to mention his DJ-ing past.
“Do you play piano?” I blurted out, surprising us both. I hadn’t even been thinking about that dumb keyboard until that very second, and it wasn’t exactly a seamless segue from a discussion about DJ-ing.
“I-I do,” he answered. I smiled. He smiled. The generous friend who’d brought the three of us together for brunch smiled the hardest (he is wise to the ways of the benevolent prankster universe, this friend).
One week later, my new DJ pal was the delighted next owner of a fine piece of musical equipment, and I was the deliriously happy recipient of additional light and space. Don’t get me wrong, I always get a rush from that extra room that comes with letting go. But usually, there’s a little sadness, too, I think because usually, I’m just mindlessly hauling items to the Goodwill. In this case, I was able to wait until the universe lined up the shot, and so I received the additional satisfaction of watching the balls drop into the corner pocket.
The extra-sparkly magic of letting go, gently!
But it wasn’t just the super juju-goodtimes-magic of witnessing myself as the universe’s Chess Piece of the Day that made the transaction so deeply satisfying. Even the garden-variety trunkful of items that went to Goodwill felt more joyously given, mostly (I think) because of how they ended up in those bags and boxes I used to cart them in. Instead of my usual grit-my-teeth, roll-up-my-sleeves attitude, this time I’d set an intention to use a particular Saturday to do some decluttering. I had no overambitious agenda, and no “hard out” except to have things cleared up by the time it got dark, because doing that kind of stuff after the sun has gone down depresses me.
So I spent a lovely, leisurely morning sipping tea and reading in bed, then eased my way into it. I gave myself permission to do one drawer…then another…then another. And then it was full-tilt boogie, unloading pile after pile of items that either needed their Next Right Owner (she is one full size smaller than me) or relocation to the rag bag. At the end of the day I was 80 lbs lighter. And the next morning, there was no “declutter hangover” from having pushed too hard. An early Christmas miracle!
The “why” (and “how”) of it
After decades of trial and error in this creative life, I’ve learned definitively that I cannot create without space. I am not the first person to know this. I’m definitely not the youngest (**trigger warning on the accompanying photo**). If your acting or writing has grown stale, something is likely blocking the flow of creative energy from your Source. When I’m stuck, I want to unblock it, but I want to do it in a way that facilitates the work to follow. I want to be gentle, playful, grateful, and loving, because that’s the kind of experience I want to have with my work, and the way I do one thing is the way I do everything. So here are some ways I am finding helpful for the good kind of letting-go:
1. Setting reasonable goals. Gone are the days when I expect my life to change overnight. It will change overnight, but only after many, many days and nights of thought and effort. I do a little every day
2. Let yourself off the hook a little! I used to beat myself up when I couldn’t accomplish my insane goals. I still can. But continually bringing my attention to the process helps me see what is reasonable and what was not. The best way I have found to accomplish this is meditation, daily. And the only way I’ve been able to maintain a daily meditation practice is to keep it simple: 5-7 minutes of spiritual reading, followed by 5 minutes of meditation. I won’t be winning any awards for this, but then, that’s not the point, is it?
3. Balancing the outer with the inner. It’s great to get rid of excess physical objects. But it’s been the slow, steady release of old, outdated thoughts and lingering resentments that has eased the way for this new kind of physical decluttering. For this, I needed help: a support group, a spiritual mentor, and a well-worn, proven program of action. If you find yourself sad, angry, anxious, fearful, or depressed in more than a passing, situationally-based way, get the help you need for the deep work. In my experience, it will make all the difference.
Thank you for another wonderful year of exploring the creative life together. I wish you a safe and peaceful holiday season, and all good fortune in the year to come.
All the previous “planning your best new year yet” columns for Casting Networks:
- Best-of-best new year’s planning (2017)
- When success doesn’t look like success (2016)
- Honest year-end reflection (2015)
- What worked this year (2014)
- Clearing the way for a better new year (2013)
- Leaving room for growth (2012)
- Getting a jump on next year (2011)
- Five things to put in place for a great new year (2010)
- What to do on your winter vacation (2009)
- What have you done for you lately? (2008)
BOOK OF THE MONTH: I will never not recommend my favorite annual values-based goal-setting book, Your Best Year Yet. Doing it right takes time, but will save you far more of the precious stuff on the back end (not to mention money and heartache). Not including reading time, allow yourself a full 8 hours to plot your plan, minimum. And it’s best to spread this out over several days. And maybe to grab a friend to do it with you, for support.