Monthly Archives: September 2014

Uncluttering Your Life

“Ridding up”

The Oxford Dictionary defines “rid” as “freeing a person or place of something unwanted.” In the Midwest I’ve often heard people refer to the cleaning up process of a place as “ridding up.” Well, maybe we should also refer to the task of uncluttering our life as ridding up.

After last week’s post on Remnants of the Rack, I’ve been thinking of the monumental task I have before me of “ridding up.” It seems that I need to rid up both person and place.

I’ve written previously about uncluttering my life (the person). Well, I also need to work on my living and working space (the place).

My wife and I are fixing up an older house I grew up in, and plan to move next spring. At that point we will need to fix up the house where we are currently living so we can sell it. We’ve lived in our current house for over twenty-five years…and I’m a hoarder. Consequently, I’ve collected (hoarded) way too much to move, i.e. I need to rid up a bunch of junk. But that’s hard to do. Where do I start? I feel so buried. It’s hard to part with some of those things. Besides, in the past, when I’ve thrown something away, I’ve needed it two weeks later.

Last week, after the post, I woke up in the middle of the night overwhelmed and in a panic. I couldn’t sleep, thinking of all the tasks ahead. I had to make a plan.

So, I’ve decided to shift gears, to move from the “save” (hoard) mode to the “pitch” (throw away) mode. My goal is to look at everything through new lenses, lenses that are constantly asking of everything I see, “Can I do without this item? Can I throw it away? What in my field of view is something that needs to be discarded?”

It’s not easy for a hoarder. It will be an uphill battle. I’m certain I will need to continuously start over. I’m hoping this blog will help keep me accountable.

How do you approach the problem of keeping your physical space uncluttered?

Remnants of the Rack

I don’t know about you, but I never have enough time, not even time to get the important things done.

Maybe I try to do too much. My wife tells me I’m manic. She’s probably right. But as I review the things that are important in my life, the things I want to be part of my plexus, I find that I don’t have time for many of them. “Experts” tell us that if we truly want to do something badly enough, we will find time for it. What that really means is we will have to let go of other things of lesser importance. But why are some of those things so hard to relinquish?

I feel like I can see that wonderful plexus beckoning me to come relax in the comfort of its hammock. But as I try to climb off the rack that has imprisoned me, I find bonds that I just can’t cut. Why? Are they true obligations that I must tend to or feel irresponsible? Am I still stuck in the business of my occupation that demands more than its fair share of time? Am I doing things for others that I don’t really want to do? Are there still people invading my boundaries, and I just can’t keep them out?

So, how do I change things? I certainly don’t have all the answers. And I haven’t followed my own advice very well to snip those bonds. But I am starting to identify the remnants of the rack that remain. And I am making plans to free myself. I need to slow down in business and look for models that don’t require so much of my time. I still need to learn to say no more often. I need to sell possessions that are a time trap. I need to give up responsibility for organizing activities.

Will I succeed? I don’t know. Just as breaking out of prison brings freedom, there is a high chance of getting caught and again being imprisoned. So there is a skill in remaining free, or at least an ongoing effort to remain so. Hopefully the allure of the plexus will be a motivation to break free and remain free. I know it’s motivating me. And I can’t wait to climb into that hammock.

What are the bonds that are holding you in a life you don’t want? What plans have you made to change things? Or what are you doing already to change things?

A Mother’s Love

In a previous post, I discussed how my mother was able to use guilt to manipulate my behavior. As I reflected on My Plexus, and all the areas that make my life rich and rewarding, I realized that my mother was a very important factor in arriving at many of those areas. So I wanted to offer a tribute to my mother.

My mother grew up Amish. And in the Amish community most children dropped out of school after eighth grade. She developed a real passion for learning and decided she wanted to become a nurse. With the help of her mother, she convinced her father that she should stay in school. She finished high school, and went on to nursing school. After a break in college to work in a pediatric hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, she returned to Goshen College and finished her RN and BA degree.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was a strong influence in making certain my siblings and I were introduced to art, music, and literature at an early age. We sang in our church’s children’s choir in the second and third grade. The family went to Vets Memorial in Columbus to hear Marion Anderson sing, VanClybern play the piano, and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra perform. We started private piano lessons by third or fourth grade. I took trombone lessons and played in the middle school band and orchestra. I sang in the middle school and high school choirs. During middle school and high school my mother took me to Bellefontaine for private cello lessons. We were encouraged to participate in the community choir that performed Handel’s Messiah each Christmas.

I didn’t realize, until much later in life, how much emphasis she had placed on music. Ironically, when I was part of a gospel group in recent years, she was disappointed. I think she felt that I was wasting the education she had given me. She preferred classical music.

She loved art and had painted when she had time, before all the children came along. My sisters took art lessons. She somehow recognized that I didn’t possess that talent and didn’t waste the teacher’s time with me.

She knew that a head start on education was a key to success. She read books to us at a young age. We had two years of kindergarten before starting first grade. She introduced us to the local library, and we were never criticized for spending long hours reading. My favorite spot was the tree in front of our house. TV time was limited, with the hope we would spend more time in our books.

When I turned to the sciences in high school and college, and entered medical school, she never discouraged me. But she often asked me about books she was reading, or offered to lend them to me. When I visited her, she was always listening to classical music. She didn’t get excited about my gospel group, but she came to our performances occasionally.

We really never talked about writing, once I started down that path. She was excited and proud when I edited my father’s autobiography. She didn’t seem too interested in my writing when she learned that it was fiction. But somehow I think she would be proud that I finished my book. I wish she could have lived to see that day. I realize now that she was probably the earliest and biggest influence for me to add culture – music and literature – to my plexus.

Who were the biggest influences in your life to add literature to your plexus?

Leaving a Legacy


Part of our plexus is our legacy. Or it can be. Are you creating one? Are you leaving one?

First of all, what is a legacy? The dictionary defines legacy in two areas: a gift that is left for someone after death of the donor (such as by a will), or something that is transmitted to the future for the benefit of the recipient (as in teachings, reputation, example, etc.).

So first of all we need to ask whether we want to leave a legacy. Or have we already created one? What is it, or what do we want it to be? Will it be for the good of our descendents (family), or will it be for everyone? Do you want to be remembered by your family for something you did or contributed? You are leaving a legacy. We may be remembered for something that was not of our choosing. Do you want to pick what your legacy will be? It’s really something worth thinking about.

Part of my plexus is writing. I mentioned in my bio that editing my father’s autobiography stirred an interest in me for writing. It made me think about what my father had done, before I knew him. It helped me get to know who he really was. I realized that I wanted to leave a legacy that will help my children (and grandchildren) be able to look back someday and understand what was important to me, what I stood for, what I hoped to pass on to them. Somehow those discussions just never come up easily. And sometimes discussing them comes across as preaching. So rather than create tension it is easier to avoid them.

I’ve noticed in my medical practice that patients read fiction (vs. nonfiction) by a large margin. Fiction entertains, but yet has the capacity to influence and inspire through its underlying themes and message. Fiction can be powerful in changing people’s lives. I realized it could be a useful tool to leave a legacy.

My father’s legacy includes his love of scripture and his faith in God. His favorite quotation was always Proverbs 3: 5,6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on you own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” He continued to quote those verses deep into his dementia. He doesn’t volunteer them anymore, but he lights up and says them along with someone else who is quoting them. Those words were the theme of his autobiography and how he lived his life. Those verses became the heart of his legacy.

My first novel, MARK OF THE FIRE, is dedicated to my father. I’ve used Proverbs 3: 5,6 as the theme, as a tribute to my father. Trusting God for direction leads to forgiveness and healing.

So what is your legacy? What do you want it to be? Are you working to make that aspect of your life part of your plexus? Tell us about it?

Finding Your Plexus

When you look at the empty hammock above, you see that I’m not in my plexus…not yet. I’m working at it. And we all have to work at it. The natural tendency is for our lives to flow downstream, along the path of least resistance. And if we strive to arrange our lives into a plexus of our making, we will get resistance.

My mother died a year ago, and what I write next, I do so with all respect. But my mother knew how to pull my strings. She could make me feel guilty to manipulate my behavior. Every time I visited her she had a list of things for me to do. And if I didn’t do them, I felt guilty. I don’t know why she could do that to me better than anyone else, but she could. Maybe it had something to do with training me from an infant.

Anyway, after I read BOUNDARIES, I offered her my copy for her to read. I wondered how she would take it. Would she recognize her ability to control others? Would she be offended? I returned the next week to visit. I couldn’t wait to hear her thoughts on the book. She slid it across the table to me, the page marker indicating she had read very little. The only thing she said was, “Who ever gave you that book in the first place?”

She recognized that I was trying to establish boundaries. That did not suit her purposes. I never did establish boundaries with my mother. And most of the people in your life who wish to invade your boundaries will not be happy when you try to establish them, either. So the path of least resistance is to become the tortured on the rack.

It takes work to find your plexus. It takes work to make it happen. It may take a lifetime. We’ll discuss in future posts how we go about determining what our plexus should be. In the meantime, what are your dreams for your life? How do they align with your talents, with the gifts that God has given you? How would you use that dream life, your plexus, to serve God and His children?